GAUHATI, India (AP) — Police said Sunday they killed two suspected rebels and arrested eight forest guards for alleged involvement in the killings of 29 Muslims in the worst ethnic violence in India’s remote northeast in two years.
Four suspected insurgents hurled a grenade and fired at policemen who ambushed them in a dense forest, said police officer Sanjukta Prashar. Police killed two in an exchange of gunfire and two suspects escaped near Tejpur, a town nearly 80 kilometers (50 miles) north of the region where Muslims were attacked on Thursday and Friday, she said.
Police also said they have arrested eight forest guards following complaints by the victims’ relatives that they were involved in the brutal killings. The 22 people arrested earlier face charges they either burned homes or provided shelter to insurgents.
On Sunday, army soldiers patrolled the curfew-bound districts of Baska and Kokrajhar for a second day to defuse tension.
Relatives have refused to bury 18 victims in Baska unless Assam state’s top elected official visited them and assured security to thousands of people hit by the ethnic violence.
Wrapped in black polythene sheets and covered by a long white cloth shroud, the bodies have been lying on a road since Saturday, said Rafiqul Islam, a lawmaker belonging to opposition All India United Democratic front.
State Planning Minister Prithvi Majhi was meeting with the community leaders and administrators in the area Sunday to defuse tension and persuade the relatives to bury the victims.
Authorities have said the attackers belonged to a faction of the National Democratic Front of Bodoland, which has been fighting for a separate homeland for the ethnic Bodo people for decades. The rebel group denies it.
The Bodos are an indigenous tribe in Assam state, making up 10 percent of the state’s 33 million people.
Rights group Amnesty International India said in a statement that authorities in Assam state must take action to protect the rights of all communities and bring those responsible for the attacks to justice.
Dozens of rebel groups are active in seven states in northeast India. Violence between Bodo people and Muslims in 2012 killed as many as 100 people in the same area as the recent attacks.
Tensions have been high in the region since a Bodo lawmaker in India’s Parliament criticized Muslims for not voting for the Bodo candidate, said Lafikul Islam Ahmed, leader of a Muslim youth organization called the All Bodoland Muslim Students’ Union.
The country’s multiphase general election concludes May 12, with results for Parliament’s lower house announced on May 16.
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