GAUHATI, India (AP) — Sleeping villagers heard men outside
their huts, calling them to come out. They stumbled into the early
morning darkness yesterday and the intruders began firing automatic
weapons, killing six people and wounding seven.
The assault brought the death toll to 63 from three days of
suspected rebel attacks in India’s northeast, where dozens of
ethnic guerrilla groups are fighting for separate homelands and
battling each other for supremacy.
The killings in the village of Gelapukhuri — 130 miles
north of Gauhati, the capital of Assam state — followed the
weekend bombings of a train station, utilities, a tea plantation
and a crowded marketplace.
Federal Home Minister Shivraj Patil said the attacks would not
dissuade the national government from supporting peace talks with
militant groups in Assam and neighboring Nagaland state.
“We have not closed the doors for talks, but it is our
duty to save human lives,” Patil told reporters yesterday
after visiting the violence-hit areas.
Nearly 40 separatist groups representing multiple ethnicities
have been fighting for almost 60 years in India’s mountainous
northeast region of seven states, wedged between Bangladesh, Bhutan
In Nagaland, where 28 have been killed since Saturday, the main
separatist group condemned the attacks and suggested rival outfits
were trying to disrupt a cease-fire and the peace process.
The death toll in Assam — where the state government
offered to begin peace talks with rebels in mid-October —
rose to 35 yesterday after the village attack, which state police
officer P. Baruah blamed on the National Democratic Front of
Boroland. Sunday was the 18th anniversary of the founding of the
NDFB, which is demanding a homeland for Boroland, a region that
straddles Nagaland and Assam.
On Sunday, the commander of the outlawed United Liberation Front
of Asom, or ULFA, Paresh Barua, reportedly claimed responsibility
for four of the attacks in Assam state, where the group has been
fighting for a separate homeland since 1979.