NEW DELHI, Dec 27: Bhutan’s tiny state-run carrier Druk Air has stopped direct flights from its capital Thimpu to Bangladesh to prevent Indian rebels from escaping to hideouts there, a Bhutanese official said Saturday.

The Press Trust of India (PTI) news agency quoted a senior Bhutanese official as saying that Druk Air had “temporarily suspended” all flights to Bangladesh.

“The flights have been suspended to prevent the Indian militants fleeing from their demolished camps in our kingdom to Bangladesh,” a Bhutanese official told PTI.

New Delhi has also stepped up pressure on Bangladesh to take action against Indian separatists following Bhutan’s crackdown in which more than 140 people have been reported killed since Dec 15.

Bhutan has acknowledged that two rebel groups fighting in Assam and one active in West Bengal had bases in the south of the kingdom and launched the attacks on December 15 after six years of talks failed to persuade the militants to leave.

The Indian army has said that the rebel groups may be looking at neighbouring Myanmar and Bangladesh to set up new bases amid a drive by Bhutan to expel them from the kingdom.

Bangladesh denies permitting any anti-Indian militants to operate from its soil. —AFP

Updated Dec 28, 2003 12:00am

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