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Rebels in Assam call strike to protest civilian deaths

The outlawed United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) called the daylong statewide shutdown.

india Updated: Feb 13, 2006 11:46 IST

The separatist rebels enforced a strike in Assam on Monday to protest civilian deaths at the hands of security forces, forcing businesses to close and leaving roads deserted across the northeastern state.

The outlawed United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) called the daylong statewide shutdown. Assam's leading student organisation, the All Assam Students' Union, has called another dawn-to-dusk strike for Tuesday.

On Friday, thousands of people marched on a police station in the town of Lajum, in Tinsukia district, to protest the death of a civilian in army custody just days before.

Police fired on the advancing crowd, killing 10. A mob then lynched a paramilitary trooper and snatched several weapons.

Police claim there were about 10,000 rampaging protesters in Lajum, about 600 kilometres east of Guwahati, and that they fired in self-defence.

The army has called the custodial death "very unfortunate" and says action will be taken on the basis of an Army Court inquiry. A separate state government inquiry is also under way.

The public anger erupted into violence just days after an ULFA-appointed panel ended a second round of peace talks with federal authorities in New Delhi, aimed at ending more than two decades of violence.

"We have ordered a judicial probe into Friday's police firing. I appeal to everyone, including the militants, to restore calm as we do not want the peace process to break down," said Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi.

First Published: Feb 13, 2006 11:46 IST