Village leader shot dead in Assam


Jan 19, 2007

eparatist rebels in India's Assam state have shot dead a village councillor from the Congress party near the oil town of Digboi, police said.

The United Liberation Front of Assam (Ulfa) claimed responsibility.

The group also said it has carried out bomb attacks on markets and oil pipelines over the last few days that have killed three people.

Ulfa is fighting one of India's longest running insurgencies to establish an independent homeland in Assam.

'Suicide squads'

An Ulfa commander said his fighters would now start killing leaders of the state's ruling Congress party unless the Congress government in Delhi stopped military operations against the group.

"For every Ulfa fighter killed by the Indian army, we will kill one Congress leader in Assam," Prabal Neog said in a statement.

Two weeks ago thousands of soldiers were ordered to fan out across the state in search of Ulfa rebels who police said had killed at least 70 people. Many of the victims were Hindi-speaking migrants.

Ulfa launched a wave of bomb and grenade attacks after talks between the group and the federal government broke down in September.

Seventy Hindi speaking migrants were killed in a week of attacks in northern Assam at the beginning of January.

More than 20 Ulfa members have been arrested by the army since operations against the rebel group were stepped up this month.

The rebels say India's central government exploits the state's rich resources such as tea and natural gas and does little for its people who are ethnically closer to Burma and China than to India.