Suspected militants of a National Democratic Front of Boroland (Ndfb) faction gunned down five bus passengers and injured four in Assam’s Kokrajhar district around 10pm on Friday.
The militants said to be from the Ndfb (Sangbijit faction), which opposes peace talks with the government, specifically targeted Hindi-speaking passengers, according to survivors.
The militants stopped four night buses coming from different parts of North Bengal, dragged out 13 passengers, lined them up and opened indiscriminate fire, said a passenger who did not want to be named.
The shooting brought back gory memories of the late 90s when the United Liberation Front of Assam (Ulfa) used to similarly attack Hindi-speaking people in the state.
The Friday night bloodbath took place on NH 31 at Anthiabari Tiniali near Ramphalbil area of Kokrajhar, 270 km west of Guwahati. The massacre site is under Bodoland Territorial Area Districts (BTAD) limits.
Three passengers dragged out from the buses are still missing.
The injured have been admitted to the Lower Assam hospital in Bongaigaon town. The condition of three of the injured is stated to be critical.
The Ndfb (S) claimed responsibility for the killing. The outfit told journalists over phone they took action to protest the killing of a cadre by the police and army in a “fake encounter” on Friday morning at Kachugaon in Kokrajhar district.
“Security measures in the BTAD have been tightened,” GD Tripathy, commissioner and secretary of state home department said on Saturday.
Top police, army and paramilitary officials have rushed to Anthiabari Tiniali.
The buses were headed for Assam’s Dhemaji district and Meghalaya capital Shillong.
“The drivers of two buses and some passengers told us that after stopping the buses, militants forcefully get down some passengers and asked about their identity, whether they were Hindi-speaking or not. The non-Hindi speaking passengers were allowed to get in to the buses and drivers were ordered to drive on,” said a police official who declined to be named.
Survivors have told the police the militants were in military fatigues and the drivers stopped thinking army personnel were conducting a check.
One of the survivors who identified himself as Akhilesh Singh told the police and media he and his brother Pappu were coming from Siliguri town in North Bengal to Bandardewa in Assam’s Lakhimpur district when the militants struck.
Singh the militants dragged him, his brother and seven other Hindi-speaking passengers out of the bus and opened fire. “Pappu died in the firing. I ran and survived miraculously. I spent the night in the jungle by the roadside police rescued me on Saturday morning.”
On Friday, Assam’s new director general of police Khagen Sarma had told the media that anti-talks factions of Ulfa, Ndfb and Kamatapur Liberation Organisation were planning a series of blasts in the state ahead of Republic Day.