Three die in Assam as Ulfa, forces clash

Jorhat, Nov. 15: Three persons were killed and two others, including a child, injured in a shootout between suspected Ulfa militants and security forces at Mandir Chapori, a sandbar on the Brahmaputra bordering Jorhat and Sonitpur districts near Majuli.

A statement issued by the office of the Jorhat superintendent of police this evening said eight mobile handsets, 22 SIM cards, one satellite SIM, one hand-grenade, one 9mm pistol, 77 rounds of ammunition, food items, some clothes and blankets were recovered from the site of the encounter.

The statement said a joint team of the police and army carried out an operation at Mandir Chapori near Dak Chapori bordering Jorhat-Sonitpur districts against Ulfa about 10.30am today when they were fired upon by suspected Ulfa militants, leading to retaliatory firing by the team.

It said four cadres managed to flee from the area and one rebel, who is yet to be identified, died on the spot.

The two injured persons and the three bodies were airlifted to Jorhat Medical College Hospital in an army helicopter.

Two of the deceased have been unofficially identified as Bhaben Pegu and Gada Ghose.

Ghose was a businessman who deals in milk while Pegu was a milkman.

The two injured persons are Bogai Das, 22 and 12-year-old Roshan Toplu. Both are said to be stable.

Das sustained two bullet injuries, one on his left leg and the other on his left hand while Roshan's lip was injured.

Jorhat deputy commissioner R.C. Jain said a magisterial probe has been ordered into the incident.

He said Majuli executive magistrate Damodar Barman would conduct the inquiry.

Sources said they had received information that senior Ulfa leader, Rajib Das, along with his two associates, was taking shelter in the chapori.

Bogai Das told The Telegraph at JMCH that he is a resident of Pisola village under Dakhin Ahotaguri gaon panchayat of Majuli.

Das said he, along with few others from nearby villages, were dairy farmers at Mandir Chapori.

He said this morning, around 8.30am, they were cooking food at one of the chang-ghars (traditional Mising house on a raised platform) of the farm after milking the cattle.

A group of four persons, claiming to be Ulfa militants, arrived, followed immediately by a group of police and army personnel.

"Then there was firing, maybe from both sides and suddenly bullets hit me, Roshan and Bhaben inside our chang-ghar and we all fell down," Das said. Initially he presumed Bhaben and Gada were dead, as they were not moving.

Gada used to collect milk from the farms of the area and sell it in the market.

The chapori, which can be reached by boats, was a base of Ulfa cadres till a few years ago.

The army had conducted an operation on the island in 2007.

Last month, a Majuli-based Congress panchayat president was arrested on charges of being an Ulfa linkman (Paresh Barua group). Bijoy Doley, president of Ahataguri gaon panchayat, was arrested for allegedly having links with Rajib Das and for assisting in serving extortion notes to contractors, businessmen, politicians and farmers on the island.

According to the latest intelligence reports, a group of militants, under the leadership of Rajib Das, has been shuttling between Majuli and Lakhimpur, but the rebels have been able to give the police the slip so far.

The island has long been used by Ulfa rebels as a transit corridor, because of its proximity to Jorhat, Sivasagar and Golaghat districts on the south and Lakhimpur and Sonitpur district in the north.

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