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Militant hunt after trader son kidnap

Tekatuli (Mainaguri), April 25: Police looking for the abducted son of a petrol pump owner today raided hideouts of the suspected militants but found no trace of the 32-year-old man.

Four militants, reportedly belonging to the Kamtapur Liberation Organisation (KLO), raided the Mainaguri service station on the busy Dhupguri Road last evening, taking away Pratik Banerjee, the son of the petrol pump owner, at gunpoint.

Armed with assault rifles, they shot at Lalit Roy, a petrol pump employee, when he tried to resist them. Roy, 42, admitted to a nursing home in Jalpaiguri, died of bullet wounds early this morning.

Jalpaiguri superintendent of police Siddh Nath Gupta said they had sought the help of the neighbouring Cooch Behar and Assam police to stop the militants from getting away. He said police stations near the border with Bhutan have been put on high alert to prevent the militants from sneaking into that country with the captive.

All petrol pumps along the national highway between Jalpaiguri and Dhupguri remained closed today, protesting against the attack and demanding security.

The abduction occurred amid heightened alert that the militants could strike in north Bengal in the run-up to the panchayat polls.

Barely a month ago, suspected KLO militants tried to kidnap Palash Mondal, the son of a businessman and a CPM leader, in Falakata, but failed to take him away. Mondal was shot at and wounded when he broke himself free and tried to run away. The militants escaped.

“We have been carrying out raids all over the place since last night but have not been able to trace the abducted man,” the Jalpaiguri police chief said.

He added that the police have already gathered information on “their escape route which we are trying to block with the help of the Cooch Behar and Assam police”.

Pritiranjan Banerjee, Pratik’s father and owner of the Mainaguri service station, said he did not receive any phone calls demanding ransom today.

“We are businessmen. We have no political background. I don’t know why they chose to abduct my son,” Banerjee said. “Nobody demanded any money from us either before or after the kidnapping.”

Banerjee said highway robbers had raided the pump in the past. “But this was the first time the militants targeted us.”

Pratik’s two-and-a-half-year-old daughter Poulami is too young to comprehend the disappearance of her father. But wife Paromita has passed out several times since she learnt of her husband’s abduction.

The district police chief said they suspect Pratik was kidnapped for money. The abduction indicated that the militant outfit was starved of funds.

A bleak tomorrow stares in the face of Tapas Roy, son of the dead pump employee. “I don’t know why they killed him. He had nothing to do with anything.” Pratik was busy with accounts when the two men barged into the office and took him away on a motorcycle.

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