Assam killings: Toll reaches 34; cops shoot dead two, arrest eight
As the death toll in Assam riots reached 34, police on Sunday confirmed two suspected militants were killed and eight forest guards arrested for their alleged involvement in the killings of 34 Muslims in the worst ethnic violence in Assam in two years. The clashes, which resulted from long-festering Bodo-Muslim conflict in the region, had resulted in a political rigmarole, with top leaders blaming each other for the violence.
On Sunday, event took turn for worse as four suspected militants hurled grenades and fired at policemen who ambushed them in a dense forest, said police officer Sanjukta Prashar. Police killed two in an exchange of gunfire and two suspects escaped near Tejpur, a town nearly 80 kilometres north of the region where Muslims were attacked on Thursday and Friday, she said.
Police also said they have arrested eight forest guards following complaints by the victims’ relatives that they were involved in the brutal killings. The 22 people arrested earlier face charges they either burned homes or provided shelter to militants. On Sunday, Army soldiers patrolled the curfew-bound districts of Baska and Kokrajhar for a second day to defuse tension.
Earlier on Sunday, grieving relatives refused to bury 18 victims in Baska unless Assam’s chief minister Tarun Gogoi visited them and assured security to thousands of people hit by the ethnic violence. Later, they rescinded and agreed to bury the corpses, after Assam’s state planning minister Prithvi Majhi met with the community leaders to defuse tension. Authorities have said the attackers belonged to a faction of the National Democratic Front of Bodoland, which has been fighting for a separate homeland for the ethnic Bodo people for decades. The rebel group denies it.
Rights group Amnesty International India said in a statement that authorities in Assam must take action to protect the rights of all communities and bring those responsible for the attacks to justice. Turn to PG5