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Military

Bhutan operations against Indian separatists in final stage

IRNA

Guwahati, Jan 5, IRNA -- Bhutan said the military operations to expel 
Indian separatists out of the Himalayan kingdom has reached its final 
stages with troops capturing the last of the rebel bases. 
"We are in the final stages of the operation with our troops 
cordoning the jungles and now in the process of rejecting the 
militants out of the kingdom," a Royal Bhutan Army commander told IRNA
by telephone from the southern Samdrup Jhonkhar district on Monday. 
"We had captured all the 30 rebel camps and 35 observation posts 
and set them on fire." The commander said a `sizeable number` of 
militants were still holed up inside the dense jungles in the south of
the kingdom. 
"It could be matter of time before the militants are forced to 
leave our soil or else face a tough challenge from our advancing 
troops," he said. 
"The bitter winter and food shortage faced by the rebels is adding
up to their woes. The pressure from the army is continuing 
relentlessly. The militants are running out of time and option as 
well." 
Indian army chief General N.C. Vij said 650 militants had been 
killed or taken into custody. He did not break down the figure. 
The Indian army, which is backing the operation, had earlier 
reported the deaths of 141 militants and eight Bhutanese troops and 
support personnel since the offensive started. 
Bhutan has not released casualty figures. India says it has sealed
the 380 kilometer long unfenced border with Bhutan to cut off the 
rebels` escape routes. 
The government in Assam, bordering Bhutan, has offered militants 
an amnesty and financial aid to start new lives if they surrender by 
the end of January. 
"We would take care of the militants if they surrender," Assam 
chief minister Tarun Gogoi told IRNA. 
Bhutan had earlier said that 500 rebels had already surrendered to
its forces, while Indian officials say they have at least 100 rebels 
in custody. 
1260/210 
End 



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