India massacre: At least 29 Muslim villagers killed in separatist attack in north-east

Army called in to restore order after at least 29 killed in Assam
  • @lizziedearden

The army has been brought in to restore order to part of north-east India after at least 29 Muslim villagers were killed in a separatist attack.

A regional police inspector, General LR Bishnoi, said several women and children were among the dead in the state of Assam.

The raid on Friday was the worst outbreak of violence in the troubled region for two years.

Police said gunmen from the Bodo tribe, who accuse Muslims of moving into India illegally from neighbouring Bangladesh, set fire to 40 homes before firing indiscriminately on civilians.

Troops marched through the region on Saturday and a curfew was imposed but heavy rain hampered efforts to track down the rebels, who belong to a faction of the National Democratic Front of Bodoland.

The group has been fighting for a separate homeland for the ethnic Bodo people for decades.

The indigenous tribe makes up 10 per cent of the state's 33 million people.

The violence came at a time of heightened security during India's general election, with the voting taking place over six weeks.

Tensions have been high since a Bodo politician in India's Parliament criticised Muslims for not voting for the Bodo candidate, said Lafikul Islam Ahmed, leader of a Muslim youth organisation called the All Bodoland Muslim Students' Union.

Local television reports showed hundreds of Muslim villagers fleeing their homes with belongings on carts or in their hands.

Most were headed to Dubri district, which is near the border with Bangladesh. Nearly 400 people are thought to have fled so far.

In 2012, violence lasting for weeks between Bodo people and Muslims killed as many as 100 people in the area.

On Thursday evening in the same district, eight rebels opened fire on a group of villagers sitting in a courtyard, killing four and injuring two.

The second attack happened around midnight in Kokrajhar district when more than 20 armed men broke open the doors of two homes and sprayed them with bullets, killing seven people.

Crying, 28-year-old Mohammed Sheikh Ali said his mother, wife and daughter were killed in the attack.

“I will curse myself forever because I failed to save them,” he said. “I am left all alone in this world...I want justice.”

Dozens of rebel groups have been fighting the government and sometimes each other for years in seven states in north-east India.

They demand greater regional autonomy or independent homelands for the indigenous groups they represent.

At least 10,000 people, most of them civilians, have been killed in Assam state alone in the last 30 years.

Additional reporting by PA