Militants of the banned National Democratic Front of Bodoland continued their killing spree on Tuesday, taking the number of 'outsiders' they are gunning down to 23.
A cornered Assam chief minister Tarun Gogoi claimed: "We have not gone soft on militants."
The killings began on Monday evening with the NDFB gunning down 19 people — eight of them passengers on an Arunachal Pradesh-bound bus — across four districts in upper Assam. At least nine were from the Hindi-speaking states.
"We killed these people in retaliation to the killing of an innocent Bodo youth by the army on Monday morning. The government should not take us lightly," said NDFB leader Bisadbangsai on telephone.
The militants struck again on Tuesday morning, killing two traders in west Assam's Kokrajhar district and a bicycle mechanic. One of the victims of Monday night's violence died, taking the toll to 23.
The NDFB, which seeks self-rule for the Bodo people, declared a truce in 2005. It then split, with one group opposing the truce. That group is believed to be behind the killings.
It was thought to have lost direction after its leader Ranjan Daimary was caught in May but appears to have regrouped under his former deputy, Riphikhang Goyari.