Kokrajhar: The calm prevailing in Assam ever since the new BJP government assumed power was broken on Friday when a group of suspected NDFB(S) militants opened fire at a busy market near Kokrajhar, killing at least 14 civilians and leaving more than 20 others injured.
One of the attackers was killed in retaliatory action by security forces.
The militants arrived in a van and lobbed grenades before firing indiscriminately at Balajan Tiniali market, around three kilometres from Kokrajhar town, before disappearing into the forests.
Assam Director General of Police Mukesh Sahay said the attack at the market was suspected to be the handiwork of National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB-S) and search operations by the security forces were on in the area.
He said 12 people died on the spot when the militants who came in a van around 12.30 pm opened fire. Two more people died on their way to the hospital, another police official said.
One of the attackers was killed when security forces, who were patrolling the area rushed in and retaliated, Sahay said. The body of the slain militant was yet to be identified.
It is suspected that three or four militants may be hiding and operations are on to nab them, he said.
AK-56 and 47 series rifles along with grenades were recovered from the spot.
More than 20 persons have been injured, most of them critically, and were admitted to various hospitals in the town.
The six killed have been identified as Mazhar Ali, Salam Ali, Danda Basumatary, Moniram Basumatary, Parmeswar Basumatary and Tapan Chakraborty.
Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal has condemned the killings and directed the district authorities to provide medical aid to the injured.
He has also directed Finance, Education and Health Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma to rush to the spot and review the situation in the area, where more security personnel have been deployed.
Sonowal, who was sworn-in as the first BJP chief minister of Assam on May 24, said his government is committed to ensure the safety of life and property of the people of Assam.
“Our government is committed to take stern action against extremists outfit to ensure the safety of civilians,” he said.
“We will not tolerate any threat from any group. The government will not bow to any pressure while tackling terrorist groups,” he said, adding all deputy commissioners and superintendents of police across the state have been directed to be on high alert following the attack and in view of the upcoming Independence Day.
The Chief Minister said Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Rajnath Singh spoke to him and conveyed their condolences.
Sonowal, who is in Delhi, has also briefed Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar about the situation in Kokrajhar.
The Assam government has decided to grant an ex gratia of Rs 5 lakh to the kin of the deceased and Rs 1 lakh to those injured, he said.
He hoped that the people of Assam will maintain peace during this critical period.
“I am sure people of Assam will definitely maintain peace and harmony. This is our sincere appeal to everyone,” he said.
Saddened by the attack in Kokrajhar. We strongly condemn it. Thoughts & prayers with the bereaved families & those injured.— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) August 5, 2016
Saddened by the attack in Kokrajhar. We strongly condemn it. Thoughts & prayers with the bereaved families & those injured.
— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) August 5, 2016
The Home Ministry is in touch with the Assam Government & is monitoring the situation closely. @HMOIndia— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) August 5, 2016
The Home Ministry is in touch with the Assam Government & is monitoring the situation closely. @HMOIndia
Spoke to Assam CM Shri @sarbanandsonwal who apprised me of the situation in Kokrajhar. MHA is closely monitoring the situation.— Rajnath Singh (@rajnathsingh) August 5, 2016
Spoke to Assam CM Shri @sarbanandsonwal who apprised me of the situation in Kokrajhar. MHA is closely monitoring the situation.
— Rajnath Singh (@rajnathsingh) August 5, 2016
His deputy Kiren Rijiju said that the government is shocked by the timing of the attack when sincere efforts are being made to bring peace to the region.
Congress president Sonia Gandhi, who is steadily recuperating after undergoing a surgery to repair a shoulder injury at a hospital in Delhi, also condemned the terrorist attack in Kokrajhar.
Following the deadly attack in Assam, Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi asserted that this development was extremely worrying, adding that his prayers were with the victims` kin.
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