Indian troops seal Bhutan border

Thousands of Indian troops have sealed the border with Bhutan to help the Bhutanese army flush out anti-Indian guerrillas from camps on its soil.

    Indian forces are on alert across the Bhutan border

    Bhutanese forces attacked a string of rebel camps in the

    south of the small Himalayan kingdom

    on Monday, destroying several of them.

    A Bhutanese government official in New Delhi said 16

    soldiers were hurt in the fighting.

    "Out of the 16 wounded, four are in a serious condition," the

    official, who declined to be named, said.

    India, which has long called for Bhutan to take action

    against anti-Indian rebels taking refuge there, said it was

    sealing the border to cut off the lines of retreat.

    Bhutan camps

    "When they come, they will definitely fire on us. Our troops

    are ready and deployed to seal the border," Lieutenant-General

    Jitendra Singh Varma of the Indian army said

    .

    India, which helps train Bhutan's small army, says there are

    about 3000 guerrillas operating from 30 camps in Bhutan.

    Most

    of the rebels come from two separatist groups battling

    government forces in India's northeast, particularly in Assam

    state.

    "We earnestly appeal to you (the Bhutanese army) to cease the ongoing operations

    against us as all these activities might get in the way of our

    legitimate struggle"

    Arabinda Rajkhowa,
    ULFA chairman

    On Monday, the military commander of the biggest group

    operating out of Bhutan, the United Liberation Front of Asom

    (ULFA), said some of the group's camps had been

    destroyed and his men had suffered casualties

    .

    The chairman of the ULFA, which is fighting for the

    independence of Assam state, appealed to Bhutan on Tuesday to

    call off the offensive.

    High alert

    "We earnestly appeal to you to cease the ongoing operations

    against us as all these activities might get in the way of our

    legitimate struggle," Arabinda Rajkhowa said in a statement.

    He

    said the group's camps in Bhutan were for "temporary refuge".

    India has put its forces on alert in three states along its

    380-km border with Bhutan - West Bengal, Assam and

    Arunachal Pradesh.

    Indian forces were also using helicopters to monitor the

    fighting and evacuate Bhutanese casualties if necessary, said

    Varma, who commands India's eastern army.

    Indian officials say the destruction of the rebel camps -

    most of them belonging to the ULFA and the National Democratic

    Front of Bodoland - will be a significant blow to groups

    that have launched attacks from Bhutan.

    SOURCE: Reuters


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