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Saturday, 23 February, 2002, 16:02 GMT
Burma releases captive Indian guerrillas
Indian soldiers on the Indian-Burmese border
Release of the Indian separatists could raise tensions
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Subir Bhaumik
in Moreh on the India-Burma border
line

Indian officials say Burma has released all the separatist militants from the north-east Indian state of Manipur, who were arrested during a Burmese military operation along the India-Burma border last year.

Sources in the Burmese border police say the last batch was let out last week.

Young guerrilla on Burma's border highlands
Armed militancy is rife on the borders
Officials of the Indian Border Security Force (BSF) say that Burma turned down their request to hand over the Manipuri rebels to India.

In early November last year, Burmese security forces launched a major offensive against the Manipuri rebel bases around Tamu, the Burmese town just opposite Moreh.

Nearly 200 rebels of three Manipuri separatist groups active in India and based just across the border in Burma were arrested.

More than 1,600 weapons were seized, along with substantial quantities of gold and cash in various currencies.

Those arrested included RK Meghen, chief of the United National Liberation Front; Jibon Singh, the military commander of the Peoples' Liberation Army, and four other senior rebel leaders.

Non-cooperation

The BSF says it made an immediate request to their Burmese counterparts for handing the rebels over to Indian authorities.

When Burma refused, India requested detailed information on the arrested rebels and their leaders.

Indian troops patrol a street in Manipur
Manipur is a high-security region

The BSF's Manipur area commander BK Mishra told the BBC that the Burmese stopped cooperating after initially agreeing to do so.

Instead, he said, the rebels were set free in batches this year.

Sources in the Burmese border police in Tamu talked to the BBC on conditions of anonymity.

They said the last batch of 27 Manipuri rebels was set free from a prison in the western Burmese town of Kalemyo last week.

They said the rebels had now disappeared into the thick jungles of Burma's Sagaing division.

It is not clear why Burma's military rulers, who started the offensive against the Indian rebels in their territory last year, decided to release them.

This release will surely upset India.

Earlier last year, following reciprocal visits by their military commanders, the two countries had agreed to coordinate military activities against separatist groups active along the border.

See also:

15 Nov 01 | South Asia
Burma moves against Indian separatists
07 Jan 00 | South Asia
India seeks Burma border help
20 Aug 99 | South Asia
Burmese refugees flee to India
03 Mar 99 | South Asia
India finds forest graves
25 Nov 98 | South Asia
Rohingya refugees return to Burma
19 Jun 00 | Asia-Pacific
Burma military 'seeks democracy'
25 May 00 | Asia-Pacific
Burma anniversary galvanises opposition
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