The Indian Army on Saturday claims to have killed 48 guerrillas of the outlawed United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) since a massive military attack began in Assam in September, also choking their supplies and communication network.
"The ULFA has suffered heavy casualties in the ongoing operations losing 48 rebels in separate encounters since September, with as many as 14 of them gunned down in the past two weeks alone," Army spokesman Lt Col Narender Singh said.
The military operations began on Sep 24 after New Delhi called off a six-week ceasefire with the ULFA blaming the group for stepping up violence and extortions. In continuing raids by soldiers of a mountain division based in eastern Assam since the offensive began, 64 ULFA rebels were detained and 32 more surrendered before the authorities.
The ULFA, which is fighting for an independent Assamese homeland since 1979, is blamed for a string of bombings and attacks in January, killing about 80 people, 61 of them being Hindi-speaking migrant workers.
The Army claims its stepped-up offensive and vigil have choked the supply routes of the ULFA with the rebels under pressure.
"The supply lines of the ULFA for carrying rations, medicines and weapons have been literally blocked with continuous patrol and pressure mounted on the outfit," the army commander said. The Army also claimed to have cracked the ULFA's communication signals by using sophisticated jamming devices.
"The ULFA is on the run and their backbone is almost broken with continuous pressure from our troops. We have broken their communication signals with the ULFA in total disarray now," Singh said.
Intelligence reports earlier said the ULFA had shifted its base from Assam to the jungles in adjoining Arunachal Pradesh, while many have sneaked into camps located in neighbouring Myanmar after the army offensive.
"Even the Myanmarese junta have stepped up the heat against the ULFA by launching a crackdown in selected areas," an intelligence official said requesting anonymity.
On Tuesday, eight ULFA rebels, including two women guerrilla fighters, were killed in a raid inside a densely forested area in Arunachal Pradesh.
The ULFA in a statement on Wednesday said there could not be a military solution to the conflict. "Only a political dialogue can resolve the problem," ULFA chairman Arabinda Rajkhowa said.
However, the ULFA last month had rejected the Assam government's offer for unconditional talks and warned of stepped up violence, including using human bombs to attack selected targets.
Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi had offered unconditional peace talks with the ULFA, aimed at ending close to three decades of insurgency in the region.
The ULFA said direct talks could be possible only if New Delhi agreed to discuss its core demand of sovereignty or independence, and release five of its jailed leaders.