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Kokrajhar attack: what we know so far

After relative peace for around 2 years, terror returned to Assam today (5th August 2016). In a weekly market near eastern Assam town Kokrajhar, 3 terrorists fired indiscriminately on sellers and buyers present in the market, and lobbed grenades at people. Soon, security forces arrived and engaged the terrorists in a gunfight that lasted almost an hour. 1 terrorist was killed by security forces, while two were able to escape, according eyewitnesses. As of now, 13 people are dead, while several other injured persons are battling for their life in hospitals.

Majority of the dead are from Bodo community, six of them, while rest of the victims belong to Muslim, Assamese and Bengali communities, as revealed by police.

Although terror attacks are not new to Assam, and specifically not to this area, many people felt there was something unusual in this attack, which seems to not match with earlier terror incidents that the state has witnessed in last 3 decades. This was like a suicide mission, which was something the insurgent groups in Assam are not known to use. So, when preliminary reports came quoting police sources that it was an operation by NDFB(S), many people expressed doubt, both on television and on social media.

Many people wondered why a Bodo militant group, which is fighting for an independent homeland for Bodos, will kill Bodo people; and many pointed out that the operation looks like work of Jihadi group. There were reports of several Jihadi terrorists entering Assam from Bangladesh so this was a possibility.

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But by the evening, the matter was somewhat cleared by Dr LR Bishnoi, IGP (BTAD). He categorically confirmed that preliminary investigations revealed that the dead terrorist was a NDFB(S) member. He mentioned that the mobile phone found on the body of the dead terrorist was earlier known to be used by a NDFB(S) commander, and the contact data and call data found on the phone points to link with NDFB(S). He also said that police had identified the other two terrorists that have escaped and they are known to be NDFB(S) operatives.

When asked why NDFB(S) would kill Bodo people, the police officer gave few possible reasons. In the month of July, several NDFB(S) militants had either been caught or killed by security forces. This had come across as a major blow to the organisation. In fact, the camp of its ‘army chief’ G. Bidai was reported to be surrounded by security forces somewhere near India-Bhutan border. Moreover, due to loss of its cadres, the extortion and ransom activities of the group had also been hit. So to distract security forces from its tail, the group could have carried out this horrific attack, so that the security forces are deployed at public places for protection of general public, instead of chasing NDFB(S) militants in jungles on India-Bhutan border areas.

Apart from that, when asked why NDFB(S) would do a suicide operation like this, Assam finance minister Himanta Biswa Sarma, who arrived at the site to monitor the situation, said that it is possible it was not a suicide mission, the terrorists may have planned to fire on and throw grenades on as many people as possible in the crowded market quickly and then run away before police arrives. But unfortunately for them, security forces arrived sooner than anticipated and engaged them in a gunfight, which resulted in death of one terrorist. He also added that NDFB(S) is facing shortage of funds and so they may have done this to terrorise people into paying up. On the identity of the terrorists, apart from repeating what police said, he also informed that police has photos and other documents that shows that the dead terrorist was related to NDFB(S).

This much is known about the incident so far. More details will emerge after detail investigations are complete, and after the runway terrorists are caught alive, hopefully.

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Raju Das
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