Renewed firing along Indian and Bangladeshi border

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The Independent Online

Fighting between Indian and Bangladeshi forces over a disputed area along their border continues one day after 18 soldiers were killed and a dozen civilians wounded in the conflict.

Fighting between Indian and Bangladeshi forces over a disputed area along their border continued today, one day after 18 soldiers were killed and a dozen civilians wounded in the conflict.

"There have been reports of renewed firing on the border from early this morning. Paramilitary reinforcements have rushed to the area," Wati Ao, deputy police inspector–general for India's Assam state, said.

Ao, who heads the police force in the western districts of India bordering Bangladesh, said there were no immediate reports of casualties on either side.

He said the fighting was reported on the border between Bangladesh and two Indian states, Assam and Meghalaya. Today's firing occurred near the western Assam town of Mankachar that borders northern Bangladesh's Kurigram district.

The conflict over several villages began Sunday, when about a dozen Bangladesh Rifles soldiers descended on Pyrdiwah, a tribal hamlet of 700 people. Bangladesh says India has occupied the town for 30 years.

Border disputes have occurred often over the years but such a large death toll is rare.

Yesterday, Indian troops crossed the frontier in the Kurigram district, 150 miles north of Dhaka, and attacked two border posts, the chief of Bangladesh's border forces, Maj Gen Fazlur Rahman, said in Dhaka, Bangladesh's capital.

Indian mortar fire killed two Bangladeshi border guards, Rahman said. He said at least 15 Indian soldiers were killed by retaliatory gunfire and another was apparently killed by villagers. Indian officials confirmed the deaths of 16 Indian soldiers.

Bangladesh troops fired mortars toward Indian controlled territory yesterday, wounding 11 civilians and killing one, said Assam Police Chief Hare Krishna Deka.

In Dhaka, officials said Home Minister Mohammad Lasim travelled to Kurigram today to see the commanders of the Bangladesh Rifles, the country's border force.

Commanders of the Bangladesh Rifles and India's Border Security Force were to meet later in the day in a meeting both sides have been seeking, VS Ahlawat, deputy inspector general of the Border Security Force, said in an interview in Assam.

The standoff between the frontier guards in the stretch of the border near Dawki village in Meghalaya state also continued Today, with Bangladesh Rifles men holding 25 Indian Border Security Force troops under siege for the fourth day at the village of Pyrdiwah, L Roy, East Khasi Hills deputy commissioner, said by telephone from Shillong, the capital of Meghalaya.

Meghalaya contains some of the most hotly disputed sections of the 2,480–mile border created after the British carved up the subcontinent in 1947, creating India and Pakistan. The eastern portion of Pakistan later became Bangladesh.

Before dawn on Monday, about 700 Bangladeshi soldiers walked into the village, occupied homes and laid siege to the Border Security Force post. The residents fled to other villages.

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