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Hostage traced to hospital
- PWD chief engineer diagnosed with cerebral malaria

Guwahati, April 24: A senior government engineer who had been kidnapped by suspected Ulfa militants from Guwahati last month was today found at a Pathsala nursing home, unconscious from the effects of malaria-induced fever and a stomach ailment.

Three unidentified youths had admitted the ailing Suren Das, chief engineer in the public works department, to Satish Sarma Memorial Nursing Home at Pathsala, in Barpeta district, around 3 am.

A police team rushed to the nursing home on being informed that the person admitted for treatment might be the kidnapped chief engineer.

After confirming his identity, the police brought Das to Gauhati Medical College and Hospital. Sources at the hospital said he was immediately put in intensive care.

Doctors confirmed later in the day that Das had cerebral malaria.

S.S. Talukdar, sub-divisional police officer of Bajali, said investigators were trying to ascertain whether Das’s captors freed him because of his deteriorating health or after payment of ransom.

One of the youths who admitted Das to the nursing home identified himself as Chintu Kalita and gave the patient’s name as Babul Kalita.

“We suspect that the three youths are Ulfa militants and the name Chintu Kalita is an alias. We are making all possible efforts to trace these youths,” Talukdar said.

Another police official claimed to have information that the Ulfa had demanded Rs 20 lakh from the chief engineer’s family in return for his safety.

“But we are unaware whether any amount of money changed hands before his release. We are not getting the desired co-operation from his family members,” he said.

Das, who is the chief engineer of the PWD’s National Highway division, was kidnapped on March 9 from his rented house at Nizarapar, under Chandmari police station of Guwahati.

The FIR at Chandmari police station states that he went missing after some youths came to his residence in a Maruti Alto without a numberplate that evening.

The police had information about Das being held hostage somewhere in Barama ' on the Nalbari-Baksa border ' but ostensibly did not launch a rescue operation because they did not know the exact location. “Doing so would have put his life at risk,” the police officer said.

Das’s driver, Paresh Deka, had been arrested on March 12 along with three youths suspected to be Ulfa conduits.

Additional superintendent of police (city) Rajen Singh said that investigators had not been able to speak to Das because of his critical condition. “We will speak to him as soon as he is better,” he said.

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