Meghalaya militants set terms for freeing official

Shillong, Oct 29 (IANS) The outlawed Garo National Liberation Army (GNLA), a militant outfit, on Thursday demanded withdrawal of counter-insurgency operations in the western part of Meghalaya in return for setting free a government official abducted two days ago.

Heavily armed GNLA rebels abducted Block Development Officer (BDO) Jude Rangku T. Sangma from Diganggre area in South Garo Hills district while he was on his way to Tura, the district headquarters of West Garo Hills.

“If the government doesn’t stop and withdraw the operations against us and others (militant outfits) within the Garo Hills region immediately within this week, then we (GNLA) will be compelled to shoot/kill the kidnapped Meghalaya government official within this week itself at any location where, thereafter, his dead body might never be found again even for a proper burial,” GNLA spokesman Garo Mandei Marak said in an e-mail.

“This is not to threaten to withdraw the operations but we won’t hesitate to shoot him (Jude Rangku Sangma) and dispose his body anywhere from where it might never reach to his family and loved ones,” he said.

The kidnapped Meghalaya Civil Service officer posted in Chokpot block, a militant hub, for more than two years, had received several threats and extortion demands from the GNLA but he did not pay heed to the threats.

In fact, the kidnapping of the BDO comes close on the heels of the recovery of the body of an Intelligence Bureau (IB) officer, Bikash Singh Kumar, and a cloth merchant, Kamala Saha, after they were kidnapped and murdered by A’chik Songna An’pachakgipa Kotok militants.

Meanwhile, security forces intensified their operation in the region to rescue the abducted trio.

“The search and rescue operation is on,” Inspector General of Police (Western Range) F.D. Sangma told IANS.

Combat Battalion for Resolute Action (CoBRA) and Meghalaya’s Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) commandos have been pressed into service to trace the hostages.

One of Sangma’s family members, who did not wish to be named, told IANS that the family has not received any ransom call.

The GNLA had earlier slapped extortion demands ranging from Rs.5 lakh to Rs.1 crore on petrol pump owners, coal dealers and businessmen in the coal-rich districts of Garo Hills.

The GNLA is fighting for a separate Garoland in the western part of Meghalaya.

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