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Forest official, 5 others killed in Assam-Meghalaya border firing

The Assam police and forest guards who entered Meghalaya chasing a truck smuggling timber was surrounded by villagers. They say they opened fire in self-defence. The Mukroh firing has sparked ethnic violence in Meghalaya.

GUWAHATI, Nov 22: A forest official and five others were killed in a fresh flareup of violence resulting from the dispute over the Assam-Meghalaya border on Tuesday. Those killed in the shooting included five people from Meghalaya and one forest guard of Assam. The incident that took place in Mukroh in West Jaintia Hills has heightened the border tension.

Following the Mukroh firing, an SUV bearing an Assam number was set on fire by unidentified people in Meghalaya Capital Shillong in the night.

The day's violence started when Assam police and forest guards tried to intercept a truck carrying smuggled timber and followed it into Meghalaya where they were surrounded by villagers. They say they opened fire in self-defence.

With a view to checking violence, Meghalaya has suspended mobile internet services in seven districts of the State for 48 hours from from 10:30 am Tuesday, the Home Department said in a statement.

It said, "Reports have been received from police headquarters, Meghalaya, Shillong that an untoward incident has occurred in Mukroh, West Jaintia Hills, Jowai, having a potential to disturb public peace and tranquility, and cause a threat to public safety in West Jaintia Hills, East Jaintia Hills, East Khasi Hills, Ri-Bhoi, Eastern West Khasi Hills, West Khasi Hills and South West Khasi Hills, which may likely breakdown law and order."

The telecom and social media services will also be shut in these districts.

Meghalaya Chief Minister Conrad Sangma blamed the Assam police for the violence. However, Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma, who is currently campaigning in Gujarat.

Meghalaya was carved out of Assam in 1972 and the border dispute lingered since then.

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