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Security blanket covers northeast India on R-Day

The call for boycotting the national day celebrations was given in the states of Assam, Tripura and Manipur by ULFA.
None | By Indo-Asian News Service, Guwahati
UPDATED ON JAN 26, 2007 10:44 AM IST

Thousands of federal soldiers stood guard on Friday in India's insurgency-hit northeast as six separatist guerrillas have jointly called a 16-hour general strike to boycott Republic Day celebrations in the region, officials said.

The call for boycotting the national day celebrations was given in the states of Assam, Tripura and Manipur by the United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA), the Kamotapur Liberation Organisation, the Tripura People's Democratic Front and the Manipur People's Liberation Front, an umbrella organisation of three separatist groups.

The general strike began at 1 am. Officials said public and private vehicles were plying normally with people beginning to make their way to participate in the national day celebrations in all the three states.

"Security forces are on a state of maximum alert across the region in view of rebel threats," an Army commander said requesting not to be named.

There has been a wave of separatist attacks in Assam in the run-up to the Republic Day in which 86 people were killed in separate incidents of bombings and shootouts in the past three weeks.

On Thursday night, two people were killed and five injured in three separate explosions in Assam. All the attacks were blamed on the ULFA. The bombings were preceded by the slaughter between Jan 5-8 in eastern Assam by separatist guerrillas of 73 people, 61 of them being Hindi-speaking migrants.

Militants in the insurgency-hit northeast for years have been boycotting India's Independence Day and Republic Day celebrations to protest New Delhi's rule over the vast region rich in oil, tea and timber.

The run-up to the events has always been violent, with rebels striking vital installations including crude oil pipelines, trains and road and rail bridges, besides targeting federal soldiers.

More than 30 rebel armies operate in the northeastern states, their demands ranging from secession to greater autonomy and the right to self-determination.

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