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Last Updated: Thursday, 8 May, 2003, 09:16 GMT 10:16 UK
Tripura on strike over massacres
By Subir Bhaumik
BBC correspondent in Calcutta

A general strike called in protest at rebel violence has disrupted life across the north-eastern Indian state of Tripura.

The 12-hour stoppage was called by the government and two main opposition parties after at least 32 Bengali settlers were massacred on Wednesday.

Child orphaned after all five members of her family were killed in  attack
This girl lost all five members of her family (photo taken by Ramakant Dey)

Police have blamed two leading separatist groups for the killings.

Analysts say the strike is aimed at keeping people indoors and preventing an escalation of ethnic tensions in the wake of the attacks.

Across Tripura, markets, businesses and educational establishments are closed and there is hardly any traffic on the roads.

Hacked to death

As panic-stricken people ran for cover, 20 Bengalis were shot and hacked to death

The Bengali villagers were massacred in three separate attacks.

Police said 10 Bengalis were killed when separatist rebels attacked a village market at Moharcherra in western Tripura late on Wednesday.

A fair was being held in the border market and scores of Bengalis were present when the attack took place.

Eight Bengalis died on the spot, two on way to the hospital.

Earlier in the day, more than 30 rebels clad in olive green military fatigues broke into the Satcherri Colony near Tripura's border with Bangladesh and set fire to several houses.

As panic-stricken people ran for cover, 20 Bengalis were shot and hacked to death.

Two more Bengalis were killed in a village in Tripura's northern town of Kumarghat.

Rebels 'upset'

Police have blamed two main separatist groups of the state - the All Tripura Tiger Force (ATTF) and the National Liberation Front of Tripura (NLFT) - for the attacks.

They say the ATTF was behind the mayhem at Satcherri, while the NLFT was responsible for the other two attacks.

The state's Chief Minister, Manik Sarkar, said the rebels came from one of their bases across the border in Bangladesh, where, he said, several hideouts of the Tripura rebel groups exist.

Bangladesh denies the charge.

Mr Sarkar said the rebels were upset with the landslide victory of the Left Front in the state assembly elections in February this year and had now started attacking the Bengali settlers to provoke sectarian riots.

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