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Bhutan books 22 abettors of Indian militants

July 22, 2004 15:04 IST

In what is considered a follow-up action to Operation All Clear launched by the Royal Bhutan Army against three Indian militant groups last December, the Bhutan government has found 22 Bhutanese nationals guilty of aiding and abetting Indian separatists.

Another 123 Bhutanese nationals are facing trial on the same count in the Himalayan kingdom, a newspaper report from capital Thimphu said.

Bhutan's government-run newspaper Kuensel, quoting Prime Minister Lyonpo Jigmi Y Thinley, said the penalties for the 22 people would be decided by the judiciary.

He said among the suspects and those convicted on charges of conspiring with Indian militants were eight civil servants, 36 businessmen, and 94 farmers, besides some government and private road construction workers. The charges against the suspects range from supplying rations to the militants to accepting money in exchange for the services.

The Kuensel said Thinley's statement came on July 17 in the ongoing session of Bhutan's National Assembly.

The newspaper said the suspects were being tried in various Bhutanese courts on charges of colluding with three outlawed Indian separatist groups -- the United Liberation Front of Asom, the National Democratic Front of Bodoland and the Kamtapur Liberation Organisation.

The three Indian militant outfits had established bases in the jungles of Southern Bhutan bordering Assam and west Bengal. These outfits used to launch attacks on Indian security forces and retreat to their safe hideouts.
Indian Army-trained RBA troops undertook Operation All clear to evict the militants. Indian army troops had provided the logistic support for the offensive that was launched in mid-December last year and lasted for over a month.


G Vinayak in Guwahati