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Bhutan army netting rebels on run

Sukhendu Bhattacharya in Samdrup Jongkhar | December 26, 2003 20:42 IST
Last Updated: December 26, 2003 21:54 IST

'Operation All Clear' in Bhutan entered its 12th day on Friday with the Royal Army silencing its guns and concentrating in netting the fleeing Indian rebels.

All the 30 camps of the northeast insurgent outfits have been destroyed and the army is conducting mopping up operations in jungles, which cover 72 per cent of the kingdom.

Leads and specific information on the hiding rebels were being provided by those who had either been captured or surrendered to the RBA, official sources told PTI.

With the cessation of gunfire, Samdrup Jongkhar, which had been virtually converted into a war zone since the flush out operations were launched on December 15, is now limping back to normalcy.

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Markets and shops in this town, which has the same name as the district, have reopened, while children, who had been confined indoors, are now seen playing in the winter sun creating a generally relaxed atmosphere.

With the situation easing, the fruit vendors are back, much to the delight of the people.

The movement of the sellers of the famed Bhutan oranges from the nearby hills was restricted since the beginning of the RBA action as the militants were using fruit baskets for smuggling in their arms and ammunition, sources said.

At Zangtorpeli monastery 'lamas' (Buddhist monks) were seen lighting lamps and incense sticks and praying for peace in the country.

The United Liberation Front of Asom ideologue Bhimkanta Burahagohain alias 'Mama', who was said to have been killed during the Bhutan army operations last week, was handed over to the Indian Army.

Burahagohain, who was presented by the Unified Command's GOC Lt Gen Mohinder Singh before the media, issued a message to his cadres to lay down arms and come to the negotiating table.

Three others -- all self-styled `majors' --  who had also been handed over to the Indian Army by the Royal Bhutan Army last evening were, however, not presented before the media but whisked away to the 4 Corps headquarters.

They are 'majors Robin Handique, Bolin Das and Dr Amarjit Gogoi.

Meanwhile, Myanmar has assured India that it will not allow its soil to be used for anti-India subversive activities. In the past couple of months, the Myanmarese army has over-run the camps of northeastern insurgents, including those from Nagaland and Manipur.

The destruction of ULFA's general headquarters and command headquarters in Bhutan is considered to have given a very major blow to the outfit, apart from that caused by the death and surrender of its senior leaders.

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