Chief of Indian separatist group United Liberation Front of Asom (Ulfa) Paresh Barua, who faces death penalty in Bangladesh in connection with 10-truck arms smuggling, is now living in China, an Indian newspaper reported today.
The Times of India quoting intelligence sources reported that Barua is now living in Rui Li town of China.
According to sources, Barua has been living in the Chinese town, possibly with a woman friend, for the past two years. His wife and two sons live in Bangladesh, the newspaper added.
All the information came to light as Barua made a frantic call from his China hideout in last week which was to one of his key deputies, Jyotirmoy Barali, who looks after an Ulfa camp in Myanmar, sources said.
A Chittagong court on Thursday awarded death penalty to 14 people including the Ulfa chief for smuggling in 10-truck arms in Bangladesh in 2004.
Earlier, uncertainty over a bag containing several sensitive documents including a phone directory forced the Ulfa chief to give up his telephone silence of several months.
According to intelligence sources, the bag was in the custody of Partha Gogoi, assistant finance secretary of Ulfa who was executed by the Barua faction in mid-January accusing him of being a traitor.
Gogoi was set to surrender to Indian forces on January 26 and join the pro-talks faction.
Ulfa (Independent), the faction led by Barua, has executed almost a dozen cadres in just the last three months, accusing them of being traitors.
The bag containing several SIM cards, a few lakh rupees, some ammunition, and a phone directory is now believed to be safely in the custody of Barua loyalists in Myanmar.
Barua's phone call and other recent developments have further cemented inputs that he is living in China's Rui Li town, and that Ulfa (Independent) is facing fresh turmoil.
Sources said there were indications that both Ulfa factions and NSCN (K) were at least enjoying free access into China, and in recent times seem to be working together.
However, they said the Chinese don't officially seem to provide any overt support to these groups.
For long there were indications that Indian insurgent groups in the northeast were sourcing some of their weapons from China.
Anthony Shimray, who is in Indian custody, has been among those agents who have been sourcing these arms from China.
In recent weeks, there are indications that groups such as Ulfa (Independent), NSCN (K) and some others are working together for strategic reasons.
The groups are already active in Tirap and Changlang districts of Arunachal Pradesh, where they are exhibiting interest in political issues.
The two districts are strategically located, next to or with easy access to Myanmar, Assam, Nagaland, China etc.
Growing interest in Arunachal Pradesh among insurgent groups that enjoy safe haven in China has Indian agencies concerned.
It also raises questions if Chinese agencies have any role in this new pursuit of the insurgent groups.
In October last year, David Starson, a senior NSCN (K) leader, visited Barua in China to discuss their strategy for Arunachal Pradesh, sources said.
There are also indications that some senior NSCN (IMI) leaders went to China around the same period.
Meanwhile, sources said Ulfa (Independent) is facing new levels of turmoil.
There are also indications that the group is under fresh pressure in Myanmar to wind up its operations.