Bodo militant atttack on Muslims in Assam
Indian security personnel patrol the Balapara village in the northeastern Indian state of Assam Reuters

More bodies have been discovered in India's north-eastern state of Assam, where tribal militants unleashed targeted attacks on Muslim settlers in the aftermath of the national elections.

After security forces found nine more bodies from the Baksa district on Friday night, the toll now stands at 32, local media reported.

The dead include four children and two women. Security forces rescued three children, aged between seven and ten years, who fled the violence and hid in a forest on the banks of a river, the Times of India reported.

Suspected tribal militants from the outlawed National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB) stormed Muslim villages in the latest outburst of violence in the Bodo region, which has a history of ethnic infighting.

Indiscriminate firing

The militants opened fire on people including women and children, reportedly angered by perceived a setback in elections, according to reports.

"It seems the Bodos wanted to teach the Muslims a lesson for supporting an outsider," a state intelligence officer was quoted by Reuters as saying.

Tensions have escalated in the region since polling ended on 24 April with fears that Muslims had been supporting an external candidate.

Late on Friday militants with AK-47 assault rifles killed 12 people in the villages of Narayanguri and Khagrabari near the Manas National Park in Baksa district.

The attackers burnt village houses made of bamboo and straw and threw the bodies of the victims into the fire, police said.

Earlier on Thursday, about 25 tribal rebels from the NDFB attacked Balapara village in Kokrajhar district, killing several people. In a separate attack in Baksa, three members of a family were shot dead by Bodo militants.

Shoot-on-sight orders have been issued in Baksa and Kokrajhar districts, where the worst violence took place, while a curfew has been imposed in Chirang district. All these districts come under the Bodoland Territorial Administration Districts (BTAD).

Anger against Muslim settlers

Assam government officials said security reinforcements have been sent to the volatile districtsto help restore order.

Various factions of the Bodo tribe have been fighting for more autonomy or, in some cases, secession, from India. The Bodos accuse Muslim settlers, most of them illegal immigrants from neighbouring Bangladesh, of encroaching on their ancestral lands.

In 2012, a spate of attacks on Muslims by Bodo militants left more than 200 people dead and displaced more than 400,000 people.

The repercussions of the sectarian clashes were felt across the rest of the country, with people of north-eastern ethnicity being targeted in other parts of India in revenge attacks.