The United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) has threatened to kill ruling Congress party leaders in Assam, even as the army said that a 30-member rebel group involved in the massacre of Hindi-speaking migrants may have gone underground.
"If any Assamese youth is killed in the ongoing army operations, ULFA's 28th battalion would target and eliminate Congress leaders working at the grassroots and also state-level politicians," ULFA commander Prabal Neog was quoted as saying by language newspapers on Saturday.
The rebel threat comes in the wake of a massive crackdown by the army, paramilitary and police in the state following a terrible weekend that left over 60 poor workers from Bihar and about 10 others dead.
"The army operations against us will fail to yield any results," the ULFA leader said.
Authorities have asked Congress workers and leaders to be on guard against possible attacks by the outlawed ULFA.
"Security has been tightened across the state with many Congress leaders now being provided police escorts," an Assam police official said.
In recent days, hundreds of soldiers were airlifted to the jungles of Assam and Arunachal Pradesh to crack down on ULFA.
"The idea of the operation is to uproot bases, eliminate rebels or capture them," an army commander said requesting not to be named. "So far we have killed five ULFA rebels and captured at least six."
The army official said the latest killings were carried out by a 30-member group of handpicked ULFA guerrillas from ULFA's so-called 28th battalion.
"About 30 ULFA separatists armed with assault rifles and other sophisticated weapons actually carried out the massacres in eastern Assam after splitting into smaller groups," the commander said.
The orgy of violence spread over four days left 73 people dead - 61 Hindi-speaking workers, five policemen and two government officials besides five ULFA rebels shot dead in separate gunbattles.
"The 30 rebels were specifically chosen by the ULFA brass to carry out the attacks on Hindi-speaking workers," the commander said. After unleashing a reign of terror, the hit squads dispersed.
"Probably they dumped their weapons and by now have moved out of the region or possibly mingled with the locals, making the task of security forces difficult," the army official said.
ULFA has bases in Arunachal Pradesh besides training camps in Myanmar's northern Sagaing Division.