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Friday, 22 March, 2002, 16:03 GMT
Indian police error leaves three dead
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By Subir Bhaumik
BBC correspondent in Calcutta
Three policemen including a senior official have died after police forces from two north-east Indian states mistakenly fought a gunbattle.

Two of the dead are from the Tripura state police, and one was from the state police in neighbouring Meghalaya state.

Officials in Tripura said their police had received information that a group of separatist insurgents from the neighbouring state of Manipur were travelling in a bus coming into Tripura from Assam.

Map of Tripura and Meghalaya states
They took up positions at a checkpoint near the state's northern town of Dharmanagar and challenged the armed men in civilian clothes in the bus once it arrived.

The armed men opened fire and the encounter lasted for nearly three hours.

Later, it was discovered that the armed men in the bus were not insurgents - but policemen from the neighbouring state of Meghalaya who had come to rescue a trader kidnapped from their state earlier in the week.

When the Meghalaya police were asked why they had not informed the Tripura police or disclosed their identity when challenged, they did not respond.

Covert operations

Tripura police deputy superintendent Kalyan Sarkar and his bodyguard died during the encounter, while a sub-inspector of Meghalaya police was also killed.

Tripura insurgents
Separatists are often targeted in covert operations
Three Tripura policemen and two Meghalaya policemen were injured, all hit by bullets.

In India's troubled north-east, police forces often resort to secret operations against insurgents and rarely inform their counterparts in other states.

The police in Assam have conducted many such operations in neighbouring states, even killing senior separatist leaders in such actions.

But this is the first time that a secret operation has ended up with a clash between two police forces.

See also:

13 Jan 02 | South Asia
Rebel attack kills 14 in Tripura
05 Aug 01 | South Asia
Tripura tea estates under threat
02 Jul 01 | South Asia
Rebel jailbreak in Tripura
03 Mar 01 | South Asia
Rebels hit Tripura convoy
25 Jul 00 | South Asia
Priest killed in Tripura attack
09 Jun 00 | South Asia
India boosts Tripura troops
07 Jun 00 | South Asia
Government probes Tripura security
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