Shillong, Nov. 18: Nine militants of the Garo hills-based Liberation of Achik Elite Force (LAEF), including a self-styled area commander, were arrested by police this morning from a forest near Pilangkatta in Ri Bhoi district bordering Assam, 130km from here.
Ri Bhoi superintendent of police M.K. Dkhar said the militants were setting up a camp along the Assam-Meghalaya border when the police raided the Gambalbari area near Pilangkatta at around 4am today.
One .32 US-made pistol with ammunition, a double barrelled gun, five crude bombs, a laptop, a WLL phone and incriminating documents including demand notes were recovered.
The team of the militants was led by Sengrak Momin, a self-styled area commander.
Eight other militants who were arrested include Samson Sangma, Ranjit Marak, George Sangma, Gabin Sangma, H. Shira, Nawer Marak, Malim Sangma and Emmas Sangma Dkhar.
Police said the purpose of the militants was to extort money from the businessmen living along the Assam-Meghalaya border after setting up a camp there.
Police suspect that the militant outfit was backed by the NDFB to carry out the extortion drive along the border. “We are working on this angle too to find out in what way the outfit has links with the NDFB”, a police official said.
“The LAEF militants have been camping in the area for the last few weeks. The outfit has camps in the Garo hills and attempted to expand its network along the border to accumulate funds through extortion and kidnapping for ransom,” he said.
After the formation of the LAEF in 2005 by Peter Marak, a former police constable, the militant outfit carried out grenade attacks on the Tura supermarket in West Garo Hills and market places in Nangalbibra in South Garo Hills and Mendipathar in East Garo Hills.
While Marak chalked out the plan to target the three places, his brother Darong Marak co-ordinated the attack and even supervised the lobbing of the hand grenades from the second floor of Tura supermarket.
While Marak, the self-styled commander-in-chief of the LAEF was killed in a police encounter in July last year, his brother, Darong, the self-styled chairman was killed by another militant of the outfit following a quarrel over sharing of an extortion amount.
Police said that the LAEF, active in East Garo Hills and West Khasi Hills, had maintained links with the NSCN (I-M) militants and the latter had even provided arms and ammunition to the outfit.
Both the groups had joined together to extort money from the coal dealers in West Khasi Hills, police said.