|The blast site at Nengkra. Picture by Cosmos Sangma
Tura, Aug. 7: Garo militants triggered a high-intensity blast using a powerful claymore IED that narrowly missed a police vehicle carrying six armed personnel in militancy-affected East Garo Hills district this morning.
The bullet-proof mini truck of Meghalaya police (ML02-0756) that left Nengkra police outpost was headed for district headquarters Williamnagar, 13 km away. They had journeyed 3km when they were attacked by suspected GNLA militants who planted two directional IEDs at both ends of a culvert.
The blast took place at 8.30am in a densely forested area. The blast from one of the IEDs shattered the morning calm, but the mildly damaged truck had a narrow escape. The blast was so intense that boulders came crashing down the hillock. The driver of the truck immediately accelerated and sped off before the militants could detonate the second explosive planted at another end of the culvert.
Security forces later recovered the unexploded device, including a flash gun of a camera, which was used for triggering the blast, along with 30 metres of electric wire.
“It was a claymore IED with a directional blast that was used by the militants to cause maximum damage. There were no casualties. Only the vehicle was slightly damaged but it remains in running condition,” said superintendent of police J.F.K. Marak after visiting the site of the attack at Nengkra.
A major search operation has been launched to track down the militants.
Marak said the IEDs were not buried but planted above the ground with the two ends of the culvert.
“It was placed in such a way that the direction of the blast would have been straight on to the vehicle,” a police officer said.
This is one of the first instances of use of high-powered claymore IEDs by militants in the region. Several weeks back, the GNLA attacked Williamnagar police station by lobbing an IED in the dead of night. No one was hurt in that incident.
There have been attacks on security forces by militants who used IEDs and most of these attacks take place in remote Chokpot region of South Garo Hills district.
Security forces have been on high alert throughout the region following intelligence reports of a possible retaliatory attack by the GNLA to avenge the death of their “deputy area commander”, killed in an encounter with police at Bansamgre village, 25 km from Williamnagar, on July 19.
GNLA leader Pilon M. Sangma, alias Markus, was killed in the gunfight that lasted for nearly three hours near the highway that connects Tura with Williamnagar.
The militant leader was one of the closest aides of GNLA chief Sohan D. Shira. After his killing, the outfit’s chief had warned of a “strong” retaliation against security forces to avenge his death.
Police sources said a specially-trained team comprising the outfit’s seniormost cadres had been sent to launch attacks on the direction of Shira. The team is suspected to be behind the ambush at Nengkra this morning.
Intelligence agencies indicate that the high-explosive IEDs that are being used by the GNLA are supplied to them by the banned Ulfa whose cadres are taking shelter in the Garo outfit camps across the western region of Meghalaya.
In return for shelter and safe passage to and from Assam through the forest routes, Ulfa has been training Garo militants in the use of explosives.
Two weeks back, Tura police gunned down an explosives expert of Ulfa who had been identified as Sanjit Rabha, 24, near Kherapara in an encounter.