Page last updated at 05:25 GMT, Friday, 6 November 2009

Burmese army targets India rebels

By Subir Bhaumik
BBC News, Nagaland

Nagaland map

Burmese troops have surrounded a base of Naga separatists in the country's northwest and begun bombing it, Indian military officials said.

They said Indian troops have fanned out in the hills opposite this base in Sagaing to arrest any rebels who may try to flee into Indian territory.

The base is operated by the Khaplang faction of the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN).

There are around 300 rebels at the base, Indian intelligence agencies say.

Most of them are NSCN guerrillas, but around 50 of them belong to the separatist United Liberation Front of Assam (Ulfa).

Two Burmese light infantry regiments are involved in the attack, they said.

But Burmese military officials or diplomats were unwilling to provide details.

Villagers around Maniakshaw in Sagaing said they could see the Burmese troops firing mortars, targeting the camp.

Diplomatic pressure

Indian troops confirmed heavy shelling of the Naga rebel base since late on Thursday but were not sure whether the Burmese had launched an infantry assault.

Burma's military junta has been under Indian diplomatic pressure to launch assaults against northeast Indian rebel bases in its territory for some time now.

But the junta has cited counter-insurgency commitments elsewhere in the country for not starting an offensive against these bases located mostly in Sagaing division in the hilly northwest of the country.

Naga rebels
Nagaland has also been hit by a prolonged insurgency

The Bhutanese army demolished the north-eastern Indian rebel bases in the southern part of the kingdom in December 2003 in an operation.

The success of that operation has prompted India to push its other neighbours in the east to initiate similar military action against the rebels from the northeast.

Bangladesh's new Awami League led government has also started a crackdown against north-eastern rebel hideouts on their hideout.

The separatist United Liberation Front of Assam (ULFA) has alleged that Bangladesh police has picked up two of the senior leaders from Dhaka this week and expressed apprehensions that they may be handed over to India.

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