A massive manhunt for suspected rebels who killed 13 civilians during a daylight attack on a busy market in India’s northeastern Assam state was under way late Friday, authorities said.
In the daring Friday morning attack, gunmen hurled grenades and fired indiscriminately at people who were shopping at the weekly market in Balajan Tiniali, Kokrajhar district, some 220 km (136.7 miles) west of state capital Guwahati, police said.
Officials said security forces killed one of the suspected separatists in retaliatory gunfire, as they rushed to respond to the attack. As of late Friday, the forces were hunting for “three or four” assailants believed to have fled into the thick forests of Kokrajhar, according to officials.
“It is not clear how many militants were involved in the attack. We have launched a manhunt as we believe the ultras who escaped are hiding in the area,” Mukesh Sahay, Assam’s director general of police, told reporters.
At least three men wearing army fatigues and with their faces covered in black cloth stepped out of an auto-rickshaw at about 11:40 a.m. and threw a grenade. Then they sprayed the crowd of shoppers with gunfire, according to eyewitness accounts.
At least 16 other people were injured in the attack that lasted about 45 minutes, police said.
Sahay said police had recovered enough evidence from the site to suggest that the National Democratic Front of Bodoland-Songbijit (NDFB-S), an armed group fighting for secession from India, carried it out.
Data from a mobile phone recovered from the slain attacker indicated that he was a cadre of NDFB-S, Sahay said.
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