ULFA splits, majority announce ceasefire

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Guwahati, Jun 24(UNI) The United Liberation front of Asom (ULFA) formally split as its strike force-- the 28 Battalion, defying the top command, announced unilateral ceasefire from today.

A fax announcing this and signed by 28th Battalion commander Mrinal Hazarika and his deputy Jiten Dutta, was sent to the UNI office, bringing down a curtain on a year long drama to win over the ground level commanders isolating the top duo of the ULFA--Aurobindo Rajkhowa and Paresh Barua-- who are holed up outside India.

The fax also urged the central leadership to give peace a chance.

They hoped that the window of opportunity provided by them would be used by both the state and the Centre.

This is the second split in the ULFA in its 38 year old history.

The ULFA top two Chairman Aurobindo Rajkhowa and Commander-in-chief Paresh Barua are opposed to talk under the present terms and conditions.

The Assam Government has not reacted officially so far. A senior Assam official said the matter would be placed before Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on July 2 when Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi is supposed to meet him and the government would announce ceasefire from New Delhi.

The Chief Minister, however, refused to make any comments. But the official source informed that Police have been asked to go easy in upper Assam.

Meanwhile, this morning in a major blow to the outlawed ULFA, 59 hardcore cadres of the outfit along with six Naga militants surrendered before the Army in separate functions in Assam today.

As many as 32 militants, including 26 ULFA cadres, four NSCN(IM) cadres and two NSCN(K) cadres, surrendered before the Army's 2nd Mountain Artillery Brigade in Mariani in upper Assam's Jorhat district. The surrendered cadres were of the '28th battalion' of the ULFA, the outfit's main strike force, and included two women militants.

Meanwhile, in a separate surrender ceremony, another 26 cadres of the ULFA laid down arms before the Army's Red Horns Division in Tamulpur in lower Assam.

GOC in C of 4 Corps Major General J S Jaswal today called on Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi at his office and discussed the fast unfolding developments.

On Saturday night ULFA's former commander of the 28th Battalion Mrinal Hazarika was released on bail from Tinuskia district.

This is the first major attempt to split the ULFA and force one group for talk since 1993 when the then Chief Minister Hiteswar Saikia almost succeeded, with one group reaching to then Prime Minister Narasimha Rao.

UNI MT KK DB1954

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