The anti-talk faction of separatist outfit United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) has threatened to blow up Bangladesh’s largest gas transmission pipeline, prompting authorities to order an intensified security vigil, a media report said on Wednesday citing an Indian intelligence tip-off.
The Paresh Barua-led faction of the United Liberation Front of Assam (ULFA) recently issued the threat to blow up the transmission line of the Bibiyana gas field, which supplies 45 per cent of the gas, the mass circulation Samakal newspaper in a lead story, basing it on information given by Indian intelligence agencies.
The article said Indian intelligence agencies recently unearthed the plot tapping a telephone conversation of Barua with an ULFA commander when he asked him to blow up the pipeline in Bangladesh.
The 119 kilometre-long Bibiyana pipeline is Bangladesh’s largest transmission line that supplies gas to the national grid from the Bibiyana gas field in north-eastern Habiganj, bordering Assam to central Dhunat sub-district, operated by U.S. oil giant Chevron.
Petrobangla got info last week
Officials of state-run Petrobangla, which contracts out the gas plants to foreign and local oil companies, said they received the information last week and took up the issue with government authorities concerned and cautioned Chevron.
“We have sought necessary government steps for the security of the gas line and cautioned Chevron to enforce an extra vigil on the Bibiyana’s production and transmission systems,” Petrobangla director M. Kamaruzzaman told PTI. He said Petrobangla and Chevron already held a meeting with the officials of the Home Ministry and security agencies concerned to ensure adequate security for the plant and the transmission line.
Outfit has got a notorious record in this
A Home Ministry official said the law enforcement and security agencies were asked to take necessary steps in view of the reported threat, enhancing their vigil as the outfit has record of carrying out sabotages on Indian gas pipelines.
However, officials said they were assessing its authenticity and capacity of the outfit’s “remnants.”
But Home Minister has his doubts
Home Minister Asaduzzaman Kamal expressed his doubt about the authenticity of the threat and capacity of the ULFA faction as most of their top leaders gave up their separatist campaign in view of their negotiations with the Indian government.
“I cannot tell you anything about the threat before we could fully verify it, but I am in doubt about the capacity of ULFA remnants in carrying out any sabotage in our country,” Mr. Kamal said. He added that Bangladesh long ago drove out the ULFA from its borders with India, evicting their makeshift hideouts.
He is under India’s watch
“Paresh Barua, however, is still on the run but we understand India has kept a watch on his activities and so have we, as he once secretly took refuge in Bangladesh,” Mr. Kamal said.
Barua was earlier handed down death penalty by a Bangladeshi court after in absentia trial for weapon trafficking through Bangladesh territory while media reports suggested he was currently hiding in Myanmar-China borders. He was given the death penalty by a south-eastern Chittagong court in 2014 along with 13 Bangladeshis including two former ministers, two ex-army generals and, after trial of the country’s biggest-ever weapon haul involving the separatist outfit.
In November last year, Bangladesh extradited ULFA leader Anup Chetia to India as he himself wanted to be repatriated after being lodged in Bangladeshi jails for over 18 years since his 1997 arrest on intrusion charges.
Several other ULFA bigwigs, including their chief Arbind Rajkhowa, were reportedly arrested in Bangladesh and subsequently were handed over to India in recent years but Dhaka officially confirmed none of these incidents.