GUWAHATI: Militants fired indiscriminately at a weekly market in Assam’s Kokrajhar on Friday, killing 13 civilians and injuring 18 others. Later, one of the insurgents was shot dead by the Army.
The attack was perpetrated around noon by four to five militants of the Sangbijit faction of National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB) at the Balajan weekly market on the outskirts of Kokrajhar when it was teeming with shoppers. The militants also triggered a grenade blast.
According to eye witnesses, the masked militants came in an auto-rickshaw and opened indiscriminate fire. Later, they triggered a grenade blast.
Assam’s Director General of Police (DGP) Mukesh Sahay told Express “a massive operation has been launched. We will hit back”. ADGP Pallab Bhattacharya dubbed it as a “terror attack”. Defence sources said
the civilian casualties would have been far greater if the Army had not reached on time and retaliated.
The NDFB had earned notoriety in 2014 by carrying out the mayhem of 70 odd Adivasis. What followed the massacre was stepped up operations against the outfit by the police and security forces during which more than 200 militants were either killed or apprehended. The offensive had left G Vidai, the mastermind of the
Adivasi mayhem, NDFB chief Sangbijit and most of their colleagues to flee the country and take refuge in Bhutan and Myanmar.
By perpetrating the major attack on Friday, the insurgent outfit proved it was still a force to be reckoned with. The attack caught the police and paramilitary forces off guard as they were complacent and basking in the glory of the killing and apprehension of the more than 200 NDFB insurgents.
Given the relative peace that returned to Kokrajhar and elsewhere in Bodo areas of western Assam, even MoS (Home) Kiren Rijiju made no bones in admitting that the attack in Kokrajhar came as a “shock” to the government.
Assam’s top cop Sahay said the attack was “more of a retaliatory and desperate action on soft targets. It was carried out to show their presence and retaliation to the ongoing operations against them”.
He said the present strength of the outfit was not very high. “You need strength to fight the forces but to attack soft targets, two people are enough. Their strength is not very high now but at the same time, you don’t need many people to attack soft targets,” he pointed out.
The DGP suspected that the perpetrators of the Kokrajhar attack were from a freshly-recruited batch of the insurgents.
“Eight insurgents were recruited recently. Four of them got killed in an encounter. We suspect that the remaining four rebels carried out the attack,” he said.
Meanwhile, the driver of the auto-rickshaw, which the militants used to swoop down on the market on Friday, has been picked up by the police.
Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal condemned the attack. He said the forces had been instructed to go all-out against NDFB faction.