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Tribal violence in India's Assam state kills 11

Heavily armed militant group stage night raids on Muslim villages

AFP, Guwahati

May 2, 2014

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Tribal separatists killed at least 11 Muslims when they raided villages in India's remote northeastern state of Assam, opening fire on victims as they slept in their homes, police said Friday.

Eight people, including four women and three children, were killed in one attack in Kokrajhar district, about 220 kilometers (140 miles) west of Assam's main city of Guwahati. The three others died in a separate attack in the neighbouring Baksa district, said a senior police officer.

"In both the incidents heavily-armed militants of the outlawed National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB) fired indiscriminately with automatic weapons, killing 11 people on the spot and injuring four more," S.N. Singh, Assam's Inspector General of Police, told AFP.

Survivors of the attack in Kokrajhar described how a group of around 20 masked gunmen had carried out the killings late on Thursday night.

"We were asleep when gunmen barged into our home and sprayed bullets, killing my elderly mother, my wife and my four-year-old daughter," Siraj Ali told a local TV channel, sat beside the bodies in a police station.

"I don't have anyone left in my family now," Ali added.

There is a long history of land disputes between indigenous Bodo tribes and Muslim settlers spilling over into violence in Assam, a tea-growing state that borders Bhutan and Bangladesh.

The NDFB is one of several banned rebel groups demanding a separate homeland.

Seventeen people were killed in clashes in the same region in January and thousands of others fled their homes for fear of further attacks.

In 2012, ethnic clashes in the same area claimed about 100 lives and displaced more than 400,000 people.

Tarun Gogoi, the chief minister of Assam, said that his government was "taking all possible steps to control the situation" as he condemned the attacks.

However a local Muslim leader said some villagers had already fled.

"There has been a heavy exodus of villagers to safer areas following the attacks," Lafiqul Islam, leader of the All Bengali Minority Students Union, told AFP.

"This is nothing but a systematic pogrom aimed at chasing out non-tribal settlers from the area," he added. AFP

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