Masked gunmen murder migrant timber workers

Five killed in suspected massacre by independence fighters
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The Independent Online

Twenty masked gunmen burst into a house in the northeastern state of Assam, killing five migrant timber cutters and wounding two others, police said today.

Twenty masked gunmen burst into a house in the northeastern state of Assam, killing five migrant timber cutters and wounding two others, police said today.

There was no claim of responsibility for yesterday's attack in Sankuchi, a village 85 miles west of the state capital, Gauhati. Police, however, blamed guerrillas fighting for an independent homeland for Assamese people.

Militants carry out frequent attacks on non-Assamese laborers, traders and plantation managers in the state, which is home to several rebel groups that accuse the federal government of exploiting the region's rich oil and mineral resources and neglecting the local economy.

In the past four months, at least 114 non-Assamese have been killed in similar attacks. Yesterday's attack was the first this year.

Police said the killings may have been part of the militants' campaign to disrupt Friday's Republic Day celebrations.

At least 50,000 army, police, and paramilitary soldiers have taken up positions in the seven insurgency-wracked northeastern states to prevent separatists from carrying out attacks ahead of Friday's festivities.

Militant groups oppose the festivities and have warned people against participating.

Yesterday, soldiers said they defused a 25-pound sophisticated explosive planted on a railway track in eastern Assam's Sivasagar district.

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