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Last Updated: Wednesday, 7 May, 2003, 18:20 GMT 19:20 UK
Rebels kill 30 in Tripura
By Subir Bhaumik
BBC correspondent in Calcutta

Separatist rebels have killed more than 30 Bengali villagers in India's north-eastern state of Tripura.

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

Police said the rebels attacked a Bengali village near Tripura's border with Bangladesh just after midnight on Tuesday and fired indiscriminately, killing 22 people.

In a separate raid carried out later on a village market at Moharcherra, 10 more Bengali villagers were killed.

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

This is the worst ethnic carnage in Tripura so far this year after the state's ruling left front government was returned to power with a large majority in the legislative assembly elections.

In the first attack, police said more than 30 rebels, clad in olive green military fatigues, broke into the Sadcherri colony in western Tripura and opened fire with rifles and automatic carbines.

Twelve Bengalis died on the spot, 10 on the way to hospital.

Those killed included men, women and children, but it is not yet clear how many.

The rebels fired indiscriminately for about 20 minutes and then retreated into nearby jungles.

Bangladeshi bases

The village is only a few kilometres from Tripura's border with Bangladesh.

Police and paramilitary units were sent to the spot to start cordon and search operations, but police say it is doubtful whether the rebel squad responsible for the massacre can be tracked down because they might have escaped into Bangladesh.

Tripura's Chief Minister, Manik Sarkar, alleged that the rebels who carried out the attack came from one of their bases just across the border in Bangladesh where he says several hideouts of the Tripura rebel groups exist.

Bangladesh denies the charge.

It is not yet known which of Tripura's several rebel ethnic groups was responsible for the massacre.

But intelligence officials say a massacre of this kind can only be carried out by either the All Tripura Tiger Force or the National Liberation Front of Tripura - two of the strongest rebel armies in the state.

Both groups who claim to fight for the state's independence from India to protect the interest of Tripura's indigenous tribes people have in the past killed and kidnapped Bengali settlers in large numbers in an attempt to expel them from the state.

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