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ULFA blows up Assam gas pipeline

The attack comes even as an ULFA team is due to meet the NSA in New Delhi on Monday for fresh peace talks.

india Updated: Nov 12, 2006 10:52 IST

Separatists belonging to the United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) blew up a natural gas pipeline in Assam's Dibrugarh district late on Saturday causing extensive damage, officials said on Sunday.

The attack - the latest in a string of explosions in the state that have killed 17 people and injured 46 - comes even as a two-member ULFA team is due to meet National Security Adviser MK Narayanan in New Delhi on Monday for fresh peace talks.

Militants of ULFA triggered a powerful blast late on Saturday at a pipeline transporting natural gas near the Bhekulajan tea gardens in Dibrugarh district, about 470 km from Guwahati.

"The blast caused extensive damage and there was a very big fire soon after the explosion," said a spokesperson of the state-owned Assam Gas Company Ltd.

Fire fighters took about three hours to douse the flames and the supply of gas to tea gardens and other commercial units stopped immediately.

Security forces on Saturday shot dead an ULFA rebel in eastern Assam and arrested one more as part of a massive anti-insurgency offensive launched in the state after twin explosions killed 15 people and injured 40 here Nov 5.

Rebels also killed two paramilitary troopers and wounded six in a landmine explosion Friday in a grenade attack in eastern Assam. Police in Assam have blamed the blasts on ULFA, which is fighting for an independent homeland since 1979.

The group had claimed responsibility for the attack on the paramilitary convoy although it denied its involvement in the Guwahati blasts.

The ULFA pulled out of peace talks after New Delhi called off a six-week truce Sep 24 blaming the outfit of stepping up attacks and extortions.

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

The ULFA wants the release of five of their jailed leaders as a precondition to holding peace talks. New Delhi in return wants the rebel leadership to commit in writing that they would come for direct negotiations if the jailed militants were released. The ULFA was not willing to do so leading to the collapse of the peace process.

First Published: Nov 12, 2006 09:47 IST