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India: Rebels Kill Migrant Workers in Assam State


In India's northeastern state of Assam, suspected rebels have killed at least 11 migrant workers and wounded two others. A week-long wave of ethnic violence in the state has claimed at least 33 lives.

Police say men riding motorbikes and armed with automatic rifles gunned down a group of Hindi-speaking laborers from Assam's neighboring state of Bihar. The attack on Saturday took place at a brick factory in Tinsukia town, about 500 kilometers east of Assam's main city, Gauhati.

Police say suspected militants also attacked another settlement of Bihari laborers in a nearby village.

The latest attacks broke a brief two-day lull in a wave of violence that has swept Assam in the past week. The violence has targeted settlers from a nearby state whom many Assam natives blame for taking away their jobs.

The state government blamed the killings on an outlawed militant group known as the United Liberation Front of Assam. It is a powerful insurgent group fighting for an independent nation for the Assamese people, who are ethnically distinct from India's Hindu majority, and who speak a different language than the national language, Hindi.

Last week, the militant group warned all Hindi-speaking settlers to leave the state or face retaliation. Since then, sporadic attacks have targeted these settlers, claiming many lives and wounding dozens.

Thousands of Bihari settlers have fled the state in the past week. Hundreds of others have taken shelter in relief camps established by the state government.

Some 2,000 soldiers have been deployed in the state, but have failed to quell the violence. Following the latest attack, the government suspended senior officials responsible for law and order.

Assam's Chief Minister, Tarun Gogoi, has appealed for restraint and calm. He also urged the federal government to provide more security forces.

Mr. Gogoi says he has been asking the federal government for extra soldiers to control insurgents in the state.

The ethnic tensions in the state boiled over earlier this month when Assamese youths attacked and prevented Bihari candidates from taking recruitment tests for jobs on the state-run railway. Groups in Bihar retaliated by attacking trains bound for Assam last week.

Assam has a history of resentment against outside settlers, whom local Assamese blame for taking away scarce employment opportunities. Assam is rich in resources, but is one of India's most underdeveloped regions.

The ethnic tensions in Assam have been echoed in the western state of Maharashtra, where a radical Hindu group, Shiv Sena.

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