The Indian Army on Saturday sounded an alert saying the outlawed United Liberation Front of Assam (ULFA) was planning to let loose a reign of terror in Assam in apparent retaliation for the killing of two of its cadre by the security forces.
An army statement said the ULFA was planning a series of bomb blasts in the districts of Baska, Kamrup, Nalbari and Barpeta to avenge the death of two of their leaders killed on Tuesday in western Assam in an encounter.
"Reliable intelligence inputs have revealed there are very strong indications to suggest that this threat will be carried out in the immediate future to avenge the deaths of the ULFA terrorists," the statement from the army's Four Corps Headquarters in northern Assam's Tezpur said.
Four more ULFA rebels were killed in the adjoining state of Meghalaya on Tuesday in a separate encounter. "While the government machinery and the security forces have been informed about the threat, the public needs to be also sensitised to the evil designs of the ULFA and prevent necessary loss of lives," the army statement said.
Meanwhile, Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi on Saturday said his government was ready to offer a ceasefire and release five top jailed ULFA leaders as sought by the outfit to facilitate direct talks between the rebel leadership and New Delhi.
"We are ready for a ceasefire and releasing the five jailed ULFA leaders once direct contact is established between the militant leadership and the government," the chief minister told.
"So far we have been talking with the ULFA through a third party," Gogoi said, referring to the 11-member People's Consultative Group (PCG) chosen by the ULFA that is currently engaged in peace talks with New Delhi.
"We want peace to prevail and are committed to solving the insurgency problem."
The ULFA, a rebel group fighting for an independent Assamese homeland since 1979, in October 2005 nominated the members of the PCG to initiate talks with New Delhi to pave the way for a bilateral ceasefire and then begin direct negotiations between government peace emissaries and the militant leadership.
The PCG held the last round of talks with Home Minister Shivraj Patil last month.
On Friday, a 12-hour general strike called by the People's Committee for Peace Initiative (PCPI), a conglomerate of 21 influential civil society and rights groups, to protest the killing of the six ULFA rebels paralysed normal life in Assam.
The ULFA is one of the most organised rebel armies in the northeast that is home to about 30-odd rebel groups with demands ranging from secession to greater autonomy.
More than 15,000 people have lost their lives to insurgency and hundreds maimed for life in Assam since 1979.