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Statement of the Royal Government of Bhutan after the second day of military operations against terrorists active in India's Northeast, December 16, 2003

At the end of the second day of military operations against Indian terrorist groups on December 16, 2003, the Royal Government of Bhutan issued the following statement:

The security forces of Bhutan are continuing with their exercise to flush out the three armed Indian separatist groups from their 30 well fortified camps. This began yesterday at 9 am along the entire southern region comprising four districts. The total number of armed militants who are extremely well armed is in excess of 3,000. Located on strategic heights in rugged jungle terrain, the camps are usually guarded by a series of outposts and land mines. Besides the armed women cadres there are only wives and children of the leaders and senior cadres in the camps.

According to the latest reports, Bhutanese troops continue to be engaged in the efforts to flush out the militants from our soil after dislodging them from their camps which include the ULFA Central Headquarters at Phukaptong and their General Headquarters in Merengphu in Samdrup Jongkhar district, the main NDFB camp in Tikri, also under Samdrup Jongkhar, the NDFB camp in Nganglam sub-district and the KLO camps in Samtse district.

Although both sides have suffered casualties, the total number of deaths and injured are not known at present.

The Indian army continues to cordon off the border and conduct complementary exercises along the Indo-Bhutan border both in Assam and West Bengal. They have also been very helpful in air lifting our wounded by helicopter. As a result the wounded are receiving immediate treatment.

The royal government is maintaining close contact and consultations with the government of India in removing the three Indian insurgent groups from Bhutan.

The royal government remains confident that the security forces of Bhutan will discharge their responsibility of flushing the militants from Bhutanese soil which they have forcibly occupied for over 12 years.

The royal government deeply regrets that the long and arduous process undertaken by it to find a peaceful solution leading to their peaceful departure from the country did not yield any fruit even after six years of negotiations which were always initiated by the royal government. It is particularly regrettable that the militants never took any of the negotiations seriously. While the Bhutanese side was always represented by the Home Minister, and lastly even by the Prime Minister, their side was usually represented only by middle level representatives who could not take any decisions.

When all efforts at a peaceful solution failed, the royal government in the hope of avoiding blood shed, gave the militants 48-hour of notice through the national newspaper, Kuensel. This too was not heeded by any of the groups. It was, therefore, upon having exhausted all options and every effort to find a peaceful solution that the current action was taken.

Source: Kuensel





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