BY OUR BUREAU
TINSUKIA/DIGBOI, Aug 17: For the first time, the banned United tiol Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA –Independent) has been found using gullible children as sleeper cell operatives to further terror activities in the State. This dangerous development came to light when two school students from Kakojan were picked up by Tinsukia police on Tuesday for allegedly planting IED/bombs in different places ahead of and on Independence Day in Tinsukia district.
Use of child soldiers as csannon fodder in several conflict zones in India has been a common if unfortute trend. Several reports in the past have highlighted insurgent groups using child soldiers in Kashmir, as well as in states like Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Kartaka, Maharashtra by xalite and Maoist rebels and by some militant outfits in Manipur and galand. In Chhattisgarh, it is estimated that up to 90,000 children are involved in the ongoing xalite insurgency.
The common denomitor that is now emerging in insurgent operations in Assam is the active role of sleeper cells and how these are helping to make cross-border terrorism thrive in the State, said sources.
A sleeper cell is a group of operatives who inconspicuously remain dormant in a community, until activated by a prearranged sigl, to perform acts of espioge, sabotage, and/or terrorism.
The two boys, Bichitra Moran (15) and Mab Moran (16) of No 3 and No 4 Kakojan village are students of Class IX and Class X respectively at Kakojan High School under Philobari PS in Tinsukia district.
They have confessed to police that ULFA-I cadres camping in nearby forests came in friendly contact with them and lured them to place bombs on August 11 in places like Laipuli, No.6 line Budlabeta TE, No.8 line Sokreting and one more near Doomdooma bypass RCC bridge. They were offered Rs 500 as incentive and promised more money during Durga Puja, said Mugdha Jyoti Dev Mahanta, Tinsukia Superintendent of Police.
The IEDs planted on August 11 were programmed to explode on August 15. Though the ULFA-I origilly instructed them to plant at least two bombs, one at Doomdooma police station and another at Doomdooma town, the students developed cold feet when told to plant the bombs in crowded places. The police became alert after an IED exploded three days ahead of the plan, said Lamhao Doungel, Additiol Superintendent of Police.
They further revealed that out of the four cadres who are from Morigaon, Jorhat, Golaghat and Sivasagar, three were carrying AK assault rifles. The explosives had a programmed device which was set four days before I-Day. A Hero Honda Splendour bike was used while placing the explosives.
The counter-terror operation was conducted by Lamhao Doungel, Additiol SP (Hq) Tinsukia, along with OC Phillobari PS and staff.
In Tinsukia district, four explosions were triggered by the insurgent outfit on August 15. An IED went off near the Indira Gandhi School at Laipuli area on the outskirts of the Tinsukia town at 7.15 am. This was followed by another blast in line no. 6 of Badlabhata Tea Estate in Doomdooma area where the third IED was also set off at Masuwa locality. The fourth IED exploded at Gamtumati in Philobari area where ULFA-I militants on August 12 night had shot dead two persons and injured six others in indiscrimite firing at Bahbon village. There was no casualty or injury in any of the explosions.
Mahanta said that he was rather shocked to see innocent school-going children being used by militants, that too without the knowledge of the their parents or guardians, to carry out their nefarious activities. Investigation to this effect was being carried out till the filing of this report.