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Friday, September 17, 1999 Published at 14:26 GMT 15:26 UK

World: South Asia

Mass surrender by Assam rebels

By Subir Bhaumik in Calcutta

Ninety-four separatist rebels in the north-east Indian state of Assam have surrendered in front of the state chief minister Prafulla Kumar Mahanta, in the fourth such orchestrated surrender this year.

All but two of the rebels who surrendered on Friday belong to the United Liberation Front of Assam or the ULFA, which is easily the biggest and most powerful rebel group in the state.

[ image: Chief Minister Mahanta: Government claims surrender a triumph]
Chief Minister Mahanta: Government claims surrender a triumph
The others belong to a Bodo rebel group.

There were no senior leaders among those who surrendered, but police officials in Assam say they belong to ULFA's military wing and are hardcore fighters who have been involved in several attacks on the security forces.

Three of them were area commanders.

One, Dilip Kakoty, described himself as action commander of the Manas forest region, which covers parts of Assam and Bhutan where most of ULFA's cross-border bases exist.

During the surrender ceremony, the rebels left weapons, landmines and radio sets, as well as large amounts of ammunition.

Later, some of the rebels told journalists they were fed up with living rough while senior rebel leaders led comfortable lives, often abroad.

This is the fourth such rebel surrender in Assam, mostly by ULFA rebels.

Senior ULFA leaders are yet to comment, but government officials have been quick to claim the surrender as a triumph, pinning the blame on what they say is the growing disillusionment within rebel groups in the state.

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