14 Tripuri militants killed in fratricidal clashes in the CHT

At least 14 suspected militants of the All Tripura Tiger Force (ATTF) and the National Liberation Front of Tripura (NLFT) have been killed in factional clashes in the Chittagong Hills Tract (CHT) of Bangladesh, according to intelligence sources here. Meanwhile, in another development, the Parbatya Chattagram Jana Samhati Samiti (PCJSS), an organisation of the indigenous communities of the CHT, has threatened Dhaka with an indefinite strike from January 15 if atrocities by the United Peoples Democratic Front (UPDF), a militant outfit of the local Bengalis were not stopped immediately. The PCJSS is said to have close links with the NLFT which runs several camps in the area along with the ATTF. "The NLFT is patronising cadres of the PCJSS with arms to take on the UPDF," said a government official in the CHT, speaking on conditions of anonymity. It was only recently that a top ranking official of the Bangladesh Rifles (BDR) had denied the
The PCJSS has, meanwhile, sought assistance from the US ambassador in Dhaka, Harry K. Thomas for the implementation of the peace accord signed on December 2, 1997, between the indigenous people of the CHT and the Seikh Hasina’s Awami League Government, ending two decades of armed struggle in the area. The systematic persecution of the Buddhist minority community has over the years pushed thousands of Chakmas into India territory.
In the first incident, eight militants of the ATTF were killed and twelve others were seriously wounded in a raid by cadres of the NLFT in the Tiprapalli area of Satcharri in the CHT last Saturday. According to the sources, Chitta Debabarma, the ATTF’s “chief of army staff” suffered serious injuries in the attack and had fled the area. The clash between the two outfits was attributed to a dispute over the occupation of the jungles of Satcharri, the sources said.
In the second incident, at least six rebels of the Bishwamohan Jamatia faction of the NLFT were killed when cadres of the rival Nayanbashi Jamatia faction attacked its camp in the CHT. About 20 rebels of the Bishwamohan faction of the NLFT are now preparing to surrender and are in touch with the Bangladesh police in Chittagong, the sources said.
Tension between the indigenous population and the Bengalis in the CHT had erupted over the implementation of the peace accord. The PCJSS has blamed the present BNP led coalition government in Dhaka for not implementing the major points of the peace accord such as resolution of land disputes and withdrawal of the army from the CHT. At present there are 500 army camps in the CHT. According to the PCJSS, the present military campaign in the CHT codenamed “Operation Uttaran” was an attempt to militarise the region. The PCJSS has alleged that at least 40 villages belonging to the indigenous communities of the CHT have been illegally occupied by Bengalis. The UPDF, for its part, has opposed the PCJSS's demand that a person from the local population be appointed as minister in the CHT related ministry in Dhaka and removal of all armed forces from the CHT.
The PCJSS has also demanded the immediate removal of Wadud Bhuiyan from post of chairman of the Chittagong Hill Tract Development Board (CHTDB) by December 31. According to the PCJSS's general secretary Chandra Shekhar Chakma, the present chairman has failed to contain violence against the indigenous population of the CHT.

By Surajit Talukdar(newsfiledelhi@rediffmail.com)