M A I N   N E W S

17 killed as ULFA steps up violence

Dibrugarh (Assam), January 5
A survey conducted by kin of ULFA members showed 95 per cent of people in nine districts of Assam had rejected the demand for sovereignty for the state, but the banned group dismissed the finding even as its cadres gunned down 17 persons in stepped up violence today.

At least 17 persons were killed and 11 injured in a series of attacks in Assam's Tinsukia and Dibrugarh districts, the police said.

The victims were mostly brick kiln workers and Hindi- speaking persons, they said.

In simultaneous attacks, masked ULFA cadres killed six persons in Longswal, three in Bandarghati and one in Geriandal in Tinsukia district. Four persons were injured in these attacks, the police said.

In neighbouring Dibrugarh district, seven brick kiln workers were killed and seven others were injured by the militants.

According to the police the militants armed with AK-47 rifles swooped down on a brick kiln and fired at the workers.

Security was been tightened and a combing operation launched by the Army.

The "referendum" conducted in nine of the state's 27 districts by Assam Public Works (APW), a body formed by relatives of ULFA cadres, revealed that over 95 per cent of respondents were not in favour of the group's demand for sovereignty. Releasing the findings at a meeting here today, APW's secretary general Abhijeet Sarma said only about five per cent of people surveyed supported the demand. But ULFA chairman Arabindo Rajkhowa rejected the survey, and described the APW as a body "comprising agents of RAW and IB (that) functioned at the behest of the Indian machinery". ULFA's insistence on making sovereignty the core issue for any talks with the government is one of the reasons that has stalled the peace process in Assam. The Centre has already rejected the demand.

APW secretary general Sarma said the survey was conducted in the districts of Bongaigaon, Goalpara, Guwahati (metro), Dhubri, Darrang, Sonitpur, Lakhimpur, Dhemaji and Nalbari during the first phase. Other districts will be covered in the second phase to be launched soon. PTI



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