Tue, Nov 20, 2007 - Page 5 News List

Myanmar cracks down on Indian separatist groups

AFP , GUWAHATI, INDIA

Myanmar's military has launched a crackdown against Indian separatists, raiding several rebel bases, officials and militant leaders said yesterday.

An Indian defense official said camps belonging to the United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) had been smashed in northern Myanmar's Sagaing division.

"The offensive is continuing ... since the last four days with some key ULFA bases demolished according to information available so far," said a commander of India's paramilitary Assam Rifles who asked not to be named.

The ULFA, fighting for an independent homeland in Assam state, has well-entrenched bases inside Myanmar, from where they stage cross-border bombings and hit-and-run attacks on Indian soldiers.

At least half a dozen separatist groups from India's northeast have bases in Myanmar under the patronage of the dominant Khaplang faction of the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN-K).

Kughalo Mulatonu, a senior NSCN-K leader, said by telephone from an undisclosed location that "a routine winter operation is currently on in Myanmar."

"We do expect some clashes in the coming days, but we are capable of protecting ourselves," he said.

The NSCN-Khaplang, which is pressing for an independent tribal homeland, entered into a ceasefire with New Delhi in 2001.

The ULFA, the region's most potent separatist outfit, is an ally of the NSCN-K, which runs about 50 camps with an estimated 5,000 guerrilla fighters in Myanmar.

Myanmar last raided Indian separatist camps in January.

That raid followed a visit by India's Foreign Minister Pranab Mukherjee to Yangon to request the junta's help.

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