7 killed as armed groups clash in Assam village

At least seven persons were killed, three of them women, Friday in a clash between two armed groups claiming to represent two different ethnic groups in Karbi Anglong district in Assam, forcing villagers to flee to safety. The authorities have deployed the Army and the CRPF in addition to rushing extra Assam Police personnel to the area.

Giving details, Assam Home Secretary G D Tripathi said four persons were killed when a group of armed cadres of the outlawed Karbi People's Liberation Tigers (KPLT) raided the Khowani village under Borpathar police station inhabited by the Rengma Naga community, early on Friday morning. The KPLT however was challenged by a group of armed men belonging to the Rengma Naga Hills Protection Force (RNHPF), during which three KPLT militants were believed to have been killed.

"The KPLT had issued a quit notice to the Rengma Naga community some time back, and had also fixed a deadline, which the latter ignored," Tripathi said. The KPLT had attacked another Rengma Naga village in June in the same area. However, quick intervention by the administration had foiled any major incident.

About 500 people from the adjoining villages — mostly Rengma Nagas — fled out of panic after Friday's attack on Khowani village, the Home Secretary informed. Three temporary relief camps have been set up to provide immediate shelter to the panic-stricken people, he said.

Karbi Anglong deputy commissioner P K Buragohain said the armed KPLT cadres raided the Rengma-inhabited village at around 4:30 am, which prompted a group of RNHPF cadres to retaliate, leading to a gun-battle between the two sides. "Three women and the gaon-burra (village headman) were killed in the crossfire. There are reports about three KPLT cadres getting killed, but the police haven't found their bodies so far," Buragohain said.

Khowani village, under Borpathar police station, is about 120 km away from Diphu, the headquarters of Karbi Anglong district. "The village is so remotely located in a hilly terrain that it takes about six hours to cover 40 km from the police station," Buragohain said.

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