Friday, October 15, 2004

Bangladesh: RAB hot on ATTF heels?

[ Reports reaching here said that the Bangladeshi home ministry had also directed the elite Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) to start an anti-insurgency drive in all the 64 districts in the country. The RAB team consists of 5,500 personnel drawn from the Army, Navy, Air Force and Police. 'The operation would be intensified ahead of Id, biggest religious festival of the Muslims,' a source said. Intelligence sources said that most of the people living at Tiprahati had long been assisting the Tripura-based rebel groups with shelter. More than 70 per cent of the ATTF cadres presently reside in Bangladesh for training and other purposes. ]

Bangladesh cracks down on Indian militants
By Surajit Talukdar in Guwahati

Guwahati: Dhaka has launched an operation against the All Tripura Tiger Force (ATTF) militants in Bangladesh, setting off alarm bells in other North-east Indian insurgents? camps.

Reports reaching here said that the Bangladeshi home ministry had also directed the elite Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) to start an anti-insurgency drive in all the 64 districts in the country.

The RAB team consists of 5,500 personnel drawn from the Army, Navy, Air Force and Police. 'The operation would be intensified ahead of Id, biggest religious festival of the Muslims,' a source said.

Acting on a tip-off, personnel of the Bangladesh Rifles (BDR) have raided jungle hideouts of the ATTF in Chunarughat sub-division in Habiganj district bordering Tripura and nabbed eighteen militants from the spot. Most of the camps of the ATTF are located in Satcharri reserve forest area.

Two guns, six bullets, three daggers, some military uniforms and an amount of Rs 2,400 in Indian currency were recovered from the spot.

The arrested militants all belonged to one of the indigenous communities in Tripura: Deb Barman. The people from the Deb Barman community also have a strong presence in Habiganj?s Tiprahati village.

Intelligence sources said that most of the people living at Tiprahati had long been assisting the Tripura-based rebel groups with shelter. More than 70 per cent of the ATTF cadres presently reside in Bangladesh for training and other purposes.

Sources informed that three militants were remanded and the rest sent to jail on Tuesday. ?Police took the three insurgents -Yasaf Deb Barman, Bakar Deb Barman and Pingnai Deb Barman - to a magistrate court seeking seven-days remand. However, remand of three-days was granted by the megistrate Shafiqur Reza Biswas, sources added.

Meanwhile, the Bangladeshi officials said the militants had entered the country due to the anti-insurgency operation launched in the North-East after violence in Nagaland and Assam. Most of the Tripuris arrested were not militarily trained and could be the newly recruits of the ATTF, suspected the officials.

It was reported that the North-east Indian rebels get consignments of arms and ammunition from the gun runners with the help of the Bangladeshi forest officials. The huge cache of weapons that were recovered last year by the police in Bogura in Eastern part of the country, were meant for the outlawed National Liberation Front of Tripura (NLFT).

Police also raided the house of Ashish Deb Barman, a kingpin of the NLFT in Bangladesh, at Tiprahati. But he was reportedly absconding. However, the police managed to recover 62,000 round of bullets and 114 kg of explosives from a truck (No. Dhaka Metro Cha-11- 3366).

Arms smuggling has now reached dangerous proportions in Bangladesh?s Habiganj, Kamalganj, Jakiganj and Sri Mangal along the Tripura and Assam border.

The All Tripura Tiger Force (ATTF) was originally founded in 1990 as All Tripura Tribal Force by a group of former Tripura National Volunteers (TNV) cadres. The TNV came into over ground in August, 1988 after signing a peace accord with the Union Government.

The ATTF, which is headed by its president Ranjit Deb Barman and vice president Chitta Deb Barman alias Bikash Koloi, has cadre strength of 600 persons.

According to police sources, people from more than four tribal communities in Tripura are working for the ATTF. About 90 per cent of the top ranking ATTF cadres are Hindus and the rest are Christians. The Tripura Peoples? Democratic Front, political wing of the ATTF, has been reportedly running a parallel administration in the remote areas of the state.

The main objectives of the outfit are the expulsion of all Bengali-speaking immigrant settlers who entered Tripura after 1956 and removal of their names of migrants from the electoral rolls, and restoration of land to tribals under the Tripura Land Revenue and Land Reforms Act, 1960.

Sources informed that New Delhi would soon intensify its diplomatic pressure on Dhaka to arrest Ranjit Deb Barman, the ATTF president, who has long been in Bangladesh. Ranjit is known to have bought a four-storied building in Dhaka last year. He also owns a motor garage and runs a travel network in the Bangladeshi capital.

Meanwhile, the security has been beefed up throughout the border areas of Assam and Tripura to prevent influx of the militants from Bangladesh.

Rediff 15/10/2004