Sunday, March 9, 2003, Chandigarh, India

National Capital Region--Delhi


M A I N   N E W S

ULFA ultras bomb Digboi Refinery

Guwahati, March 8
Banned ULFA separatists in Assam today carried out a series of attacks setting on fire a 5,000 KL petrol tank at the famous Digboi Refinery, blasting a gas pipeline nearby, attacking a police post and a commando barrack and firing at a Bihari settlement killing two persons and injuring six others.

The two deaths took place in Lower Assam’s Goalpara district where a police outpost was attacked. There was no casualty in the explosions in Tinsukia and Dibrugarh districts of Upper Assam.

Self-styled commander-in-chief of ULFA Paresh Baruah rang up media houses in Guwahati this morning to claim responsibility for the attacks on the IOC’s petrol storage tank near Digboi refinery in Tinsukia district and the damage to the gas pipeline in Dibrugarh district.

Deputy Commissioner, Tinsukia, B.N. Das said the separatists appeared to have used rocket launchers or mortars in setting the oil tank on fire just after midnight. No casualties were reported.

Assam Oil Division Deputy General Manager Nandan Saikia said the blast caused two ruptures in the tank and said the preliminary loss was estimated at over Rs 10 crore.

Operations in the refinery were temporarily suspended, Indian Oil Corporation sources said.

Mr Das said the flames at the IOC’s petrol storage tank initially leapt to 70 feet and were still flickering 30 feet high. About 70 fire tenders were struggling to douse the flames and prevent these from spreading to six other nearby tanks.

In neighbouring Dibrugarh district, the ULFA activists blasted an Oil India Ltd pipeline damaging it partially. The pipeline carries gas from OIL, Duliajan, to the North-Eastern Electric Power Corporation Ltd grid.

The police seized wires and batteries of foreign make from the site. The pipeline was repaired this afternoon and the flow of gas restored, IOC sources said.

ULFA also fired from AK-47 rifles at the Darrangiri police outpost in Lower Assam’s Goalpara district shattering window panes and damaging property, the police said.

The police returned fire and while fleeing, the extremists attacked a Bihari settlement killing two persons and injuring six others. Two of the injured were admitted to hospital.

ULFA cadres also fired rocket-propelled grenades at a police commando barrack in Bongaigaon district town late last night, the sources said.

The grenades missed the target and fell on the battalion inspector’s residential quarters located about 300 yards behind the barracks, the sources said.

The tin roof of the building was partially damaged.

KOLKATA: Petroleum Minister Ram Naik on Saturday held militants responsible for bombing of the world’s oldest Digboi Refinery.

“According to preliminary reports available, the fire at Digboi was because of the extremist attack. The fire occurred after the militants hurled grenades at one of the depots,” Mr Naik told a press conference.

However, he said the fire had been controlled. Mr Naik told reporters that extra foam required for containing the fire had been sent from Guwahati.

The fire could not spread, he said, as the tank which was set ablaze was at a distance from others.

Stating that he had received only preliminary reports, the minister said he would come to know about the extent of damage after getting full details.

Asked whether adequate security measures were in place to protect oil installations in the country, Mr Naik said all installations were guarded by a separate Central force. “But inspite of security arrangements such attacks take place.”

NEW DELHI: The state-owned Indian Oil Corporation (IOC) on Saturday said operations of country’s oldest oil refinery at Digboi have not been affected by militant attacks on a nearby petrol storage bunk.

“Digboi refinery is operating,” company officials said here.

A team of eight senior IOC officials, headed by Director (Refineries) A.K. Arora, have rushed to Digboi after suspected ULFA militants blew up a large petrol storage tank and bombed a gas pipeline in Assam.

“The initial reaction (after the blasts) was to suspend the operations but the refinery is up and running. The petrol storage tank is at a safe distance from the refinery and the fire has had no impact on the refinery operations,” they said, adding that there has been no casualty of any of the company employees.

The storage tank had a capacity of five million litres.

The Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas will review the entire security mechanism of oil establishments in the country on Monday and is likely to ask the state-owned companies to step up security systems in view of fire at Digboi Refinery in Assam. PTI, UNI

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