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Rebels kill 42 migrants in India's insurgency-hit northeast

GUWAHATI - (AFP) Jan. 6 - Separatist rebels gunned down 42 people in a string of overnight attacks targeting migrants in India's restive northeast, officials said Saturday.

Guerrillas wearing army uniforms bound the hands of 13 kiln workers and fishermen and killed them in a pre-dawn raid Saturday in Tinsukia district, 590 kilometers (365 miles) east of Assam's main city of Guwahati, officials said.

"The militants tied the hands of the people and shot them dead from close range with automatic weapons ... raining bullets on them," Tinsukia district magistrate Absar Hazarika told AFP by telephone.

Saturday's killings near Ghormori Chapori village came hours after rebels carried out nine attacks in the oil- and tea-rich state late Friday that left 29 people dead, officials said.

Most of the victims were Hindi-speaking migrants, officials said.

Authorities blamed the burst of violence on the United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA), which is fighting for a separate Assamese homeland and demanding the expulsion of all non-Assamese people, especially those from a Hindi-speaking northern belt of India.

India's Prime Minister Manmohan Singh condemned the killings as "an anti-people act of cowardice and inhumanity", while Home Minister Shivraj Patil called an emergency meeting late Saturday in New Delhi to discuss strategy.

"The killing of innocent people will not be tolerated," Patil said.

Since peace talks collapsed between New Delhi and the rebels last September, Assam has witnessed a series of deadly attacks that authorities have blamed on the outlawed ULFA.

Junior home minister Sriprakash Jaisawal would leave for Assam on Sunday "for an on-the-spot study of the situation," a government official said.

Assam chief minister Tarun Gogoi denounced the upsurge in rebel violence -- the worst in at least three years -- as "inhuman attacks on innocent people" and imposed a high security alert.

"Security offensives against the militants have been intensified," he said.



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