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New Delhi Boosts Security in Troubled Northeast - 2004-10-04


In India's remote northeast, six people were killed Monday as the region continues to reel under violence blamed on separatist militants. The government is tightening security after more than 60 people have been killed and two hundred injured in a wave of attacks in the region.

Authorities say suspected rebels woke up sleeping villagers in Assam's Sonitpur district, lined up several residents outside their homes and shot them dead. Others were wounded in the attack.

It was the latest in a string of attacks that have hit Assam and neighboring Nagaland state since Saturday. The attacks have targeted crowded village markets and a rail station. Most of the victims have been civilians, including children and women.

The federal government is promising tough measures to deal with the violence, while offering to hold peace talks with militants. After visiting some of the violence-hit areas, Home Minister Shivraj Patil says the government will deploy more troops to crack down on the militants.

Mr. Patil says the federal government will cooperate with state authorities and extend whatever help is possible to tackle the militant attacks.

Officials are blaming much of the violence on two militant groups in Assam, the National Democratic Front of Bodoland and the United Liberation Front of Assam.

They are among more than 30 militant groups fighting for greater autonomy or independence in northeastern India.

Authorities in Assam recently offered to negotiate peace with both groups. The United Liberation Front of Assam told local newspapers that the explosions are an answer to the government's offer of a cease-fire.

A peace initiative is already underway in Nagaland, the other state hit by the recent violence. New Delhi says the violence was aimed at disrupting its peace initiative with a leading rebel group. But Home Minister Patil vows to persevere with the talks.

"There was a peace for seven years, [which] indicates the talks were going in right direction, and we would do our best to see that all the acceptable expectations of the people are met without any delay," he said.

India's mountainous northeast region is inhabited by many ethnic tribes. Militants began waging insurgencies in the late 1970s, accusing the federal and state government of plundering the region's resources, and flooding it with outsiders.

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