Tripura militants recruiting youth, warns intelligence

In the lead-up to the Tripura assembly elections due next February, separatist groups in the state are recruiting tribal youths, an official statement here said Thursday.

In what is a first time for Tripura, a statement from the state police headquarters said: "It has been revealed that NLFT (National Liberation Front of Tripura) extremists are engaged in fresh recruitment of innocent tribal youths from the interior areas."

"The guerillas are also trying to extort money from different agencies with the help of a section of surrendered extremists and their sympathisers," the statement added.

Last week Tripura Police arrested five NLFT militants, including a woman, and recovered Rs.2.5 million in cash, electronic gadgets and some secret documents.

"The militants, who were arrested from a house on the outskirts of the city, were carrying money and electronic devices to pass on to their cadre in Bangladesh to procure arms. They have revealed vital information about the terrorists' possible activities in the coming months," a police spokesman told reporters here.

The police have also appealed to all surrendered militants, as well as to the youths, not to heed the call of extremists.

"The police authority has also urged misguided youths to leave the path of violence and join the mainstream of society," the statement added.

Meanwhile, police have recovered a sophisticated foreign-made revolver and some ammunition from a house in the state capital.

Tripura's two militant secessionist outfits - NLFT and the All Tripura Tiger Force (ATTF), both banned by the Indian authorities - have set up bases in Bangladesh, and receive support from other separatist outfits of the northeast.

"Currently, the number of NLFT cadres is 150 to 155, and the ATTF has 10 to 12 guerillas," Tripura Chief Minister Manik Sarkar recently told the state assembly, quoting intelligence reports.

Tripura has successfully controlled the 45-year-old phenomenon of secessionist terrorism in the state, which borders Bangladesh.

The chief minister also told the state assembly that militants who surrendered after 1998 have come under the rehabilitation scheme announced by the central government.

"Under the package, each surrendered militant is getting Rs.150,000 as allowance besides other facilities," Sarkar said, adding that the state government has asked the centre to modify the package so that all the surrendered extremists come under the scheme.

"During the past 14 years, 1,705 extremists of different outfits have surrendered to the government. Of the 1,705 surrendered militants, 1,285 have been given economic rehabilitation and embarked on a new life with their families," Sarkar said.

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