Guwahati: In an overnight orgy of violence in Assam, the outlawed National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB) launched a coordinated strike killing 20 people, most of them Hindi speakers, and wounding eight in seven separate attacks.
The NDFB on Tuesday claimed responsibility for the attacks that spanned over four hours, beginning 5.30 pm on Monday, and warned of more violent strikes in the next few days.
"The death toll has gone up to 20 with one of the injured succumbing to his injuries at a hospital and there have been seven separate attacks overnight. Eight people were injured," Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi said.
A police spokesperson said 15 of those killed were from Sonitpur district -- eight of them bus passengers, including a woman.
The Assam government has sounded a massive security alert and announced a coordinated security offensive.
"We are not going to be cowed down by terror and already army, police and paramilitary troopers have launched massive operations in NDFB pockets," the CM said.
The attacks came hours after security forces on Monday morning gunned down an NDFB militant in Sonitpur district during an encounter. The tribal separatists had threatened to kill 20 or more people in retaliation and lived up to their warning.
"Mahesh Basumatary, who the police claimed was an NDFB militant and killed during an encounter Monday, is an innocent Bodo tribal civilian and hence we took revenge for his death," NDFB spokesperson B. Sadbangso said from an undisclosed location.
"We warn of more violent attacks if the security forces continue with their offensive against us."
On Nov 1, the NDFB threatened to kill 20 or more people for every Bodo killed by the security forces.
"One innocent Bodo would be equal to 20 Indians or may be more and we don`t care who they are, maybe Indian civilian or Indian forces," B Jwngkhang of the Bodoland Army, the armed wing of the NDFB, said in an e-mailed statement on Nov 1.
The security forces in the past three months have killed at least 20 NDFB cadres, besides arresting more than 15 militants in separate raids even as the tribal separatist group continued with a series of kidnappings for money.