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Last Updated: Thursday, 12 July 2007, 15:06 GMT 16:06 UK
Indian official is confirmed dead
By Subir Bhaumik
BBC News, Calcutta

Suspected body of Phul Chand Ram
A number of officials have recently been kidnapped in Assam (Pic: Subhamoy Bhattacharjee)
The body of a top Indian official who was kidnapped by separatists in the north-eastern state of Assam has been identified by his son.

Earlier police said a body found after a gun battle between separatist rebels and security forces was probably the kidnapped man, Phul Chand Ram.

The battle with United Liberation Front of Assam (Ulfa) fighters took place 50km from the state capital, Guwahati.

Police say that two rebels were also killed in the fighting.

The violence took place late on Wednesday evening, police say.

Ulfa blamed

"I now have no doubt this body is that of my father. There is no room for any confusion," the dead man's son, Praveen Gautam, told journalists in Guwahati.

The Assam government asked Mr Gautam to rush to the state from Delhi to identify the dead man.

Map of Assam

Mr Ram was the northeast regional director of India's state-owned Food Corporation of India (FCI).

Ulfa demanded that the government should release two of their top leaders, Mrinal Hazarika and Pallab Saikia.

But the Assam government turned down the separatist's swap offer.

Earlier this month, police said they had recovered a dead body from near the border with Bhutan that resembled that of Mr Ram, and Ulfa was promptly blamed for killing him.

But police later said that the dead man found then was in fact a member of the army medical corps who had been picked up by the rebels while on a suspected intelligence mission.

"The killing was perhaps meant to distract the police search parties that had cordoned off the area and were closing in on the rebels holding Mr Ram," an unnamed intelligence official told the BBC News website.

Assam bomb scene - 26/5/07
Assam has been rocked by violence this year (Pic: Subhamoy Bhattacharjee)

"The dead body distracted search parties and the Ulfa managed to escape with Mr Ram."

He said that police then resumed their search for the missing official, leading to Wednesday night's encounter.

The mistaken identity incident explains why the police are cautious to say the latest discovery of a body is that of Mr Ram.

They say they will confirm the death of Mr Ram after a DNA test has been completed.

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