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Assam violence: Rajnath orders NIA probe into Bodo attack, death toll rises to 78

GUWAHATI: A day after militants belonging to the Songbijit faction of the National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB) targeted Adivasis in what seemed like synchronised attacks in five different places in Sonitpur and Kokrajhar districts, the toll rose on 70 on Wednesday, including 21 women and 18 children.

While 62 Adivasis were killed in Tuesday’s attacks, they reportedly hit back on Wednesday, killing five Bodos — three in Chirang and two in Sonitpur. Three other persons were killed when police opened fire on a group of protestors in Dhekiajuli. The death toll is likely to increase.

The militants struck at five places — two in Sonitpur and three in Kokrajhar district — at around 5:30 pm on Tuesday, opening indiscriminate fire with automatic AK-series weapons on villagers, all of whom belonged to Adivasi communities like Santhals, Bheels and Munda tribals. Originally from Chhota Nagpur region, the Adivasis migrated to Assam in the mid-19th century.

While 37 people were killed in Sonitpur, another 25 were killed in Kokrajhar. Five Bodos, two in Sonitpur and three in Chirang, were killed in retaliatory attacks by some Adivasi miscreants, reports said.

Dozens of houses belonging to both Bodo and Adivasi communities were set on fire in Phulbari-Sonajuli this morning. The mobs also looted belongings of people who had fled their homes after yesterday’s killings. They took away cattle, pigs and poultry from abandoned homesteads belonging to both communities in Phulbari-Sonajuli.

In Delhi, Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh chaired a high-level meeting attended by top officials of the home, defence ministries and paramilitary forces. “This was an act of terror and we will deal with it accordingly… whatever action is required, we will take,” Singh told reporters after the meeting.

He said 50 companies of paramilitary forces have been rushed to Assam. The Centre and state government have decided to launch an all-out offensive against NDFB militants.

Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi termed the killings as “senseless”, and asserted that the government would not bow down to any pressure exerted by those wielding the gun. “This is a most heinous, cowardly and most barbaric act. The government will never surrender to any pressure exerted by terrorists who train their guns on innocent people,” he said.