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Army to air drop soldiers to fight ULFA rebels

The army is engaged in a massive anti-insurgency operation in parts of eastern Assam to fight ULFA.

india Updated: Oct 08, 2006 13:15 IST
Indo-Asian News Service
Indo-Asian News Service

The Indian Army onSunday said it was keeping a fleet of helicopters on standby to air drop soldiers to fight separatist guerrillas hiding in inaccessible jungle terrain in Assam.

The army is engaged in a massive anti-insurgency operation in parts of eastern Assam, close to the border with Myanmar, to flush out rebels of the outlawed United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA).

"We shall air drop soldiers as and when needed based on specific intelligence," army spokesman Colonel Narender Singhsaid.

The government called off a six-week ceasefire and resumed military operations against ULFA on September 24 following stepped up attacks and extortions by the rebels.

At least four ULFA rebels were killed and six captured in the offensive. "The operations are going on and our target are cadres of ULFA's 28th Battalion who are active in eastern Assam," the army official said.

The ULFA too stepped up its attacks in the past fortnight killing at least three people and wounding 30, including 10 soldiers. Intelligence officials said a large group of ULFA guerrillas armed with explosives and sophisticated weapons have sneaked into Assam from Myanmar's north Sagaing division in the past two weeks.

"The ULFA cadres have split into small groups. Some are believed to be hiding in some thickly forested areas in eastern Assam," an intelligence official said.

Peace talks between ULFA representatives and the Indian government formally broke down last week after the People's Consultative Group (PCG), a civil society team appointed by the rebels to mediate, pulled out of the peace process blaming the government for calling off the truce.

The talks were deadlocked with the ULFA demanding the release of five of their jailed leaders as a condition to hold direct talks with the government. Indian negotiators wanted a commitment in writing that the ULFA leadership would come for talks if their jailed men were released. The rebel group refused to give a written commitment.

"We gave ULFA about 40 days to respond to the truce but they simply refused to give a letter of commitment. We cannot allow ULFA to take advantage of the ceasefire and carry out attacks," Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoisaid.

First Published: Oct 08, 2006 13:13 IST