Tura, Aug. 18: A massive manhunt launched by security forces in Garo hills to recapture an escaped militant leader has drawn a blank 24 hours after the daring prison breakout in the heart of Tura last night.
Jail authorities, after picking up the pieces of the breakout puzzle, found out that it was because of the alertness of guards at one of the two manned watchtowers that a mass breakout was prevented.
Last night, around 7.30pm, undertrials led by a hardcore GNLA) militant, Kennedy T. Sangma alias Hebil, made a dash for freedom after cutting through the iron bars of prison ward no. III inside the Tura district jail compound.
There were over a dozen prisoners inside the ward. The prisoners used a bedsheet tied to a brick to scale the prison walls. While the leader of the group and GNLA militant commander managed to jump across the wall, an alert sentry on duty at the tower raised the alarm and prevented the rest of the group from following suit despite poor lighting of the boundary walls.
The prisoners were rounded up, including one who had tried to conceal himself under a thick shrub close to the wall.
The worrying factor for authorities, however, is the escape of the GNLA commander who is wanted in several dozen criminal cases including kidnappings, murders and ambushes on security forces in the South Garo Hills region.
The escaped prisoner was the GNLA area commander of Chokpot and was arrested ahead of the state Assembly elections earlier this year.
His escape is a major blow to the efforts of security forces to bring to book senior leaders of the GNLA which has been the most active outfit involved in several killings, extortion and abduction.
Poor maintenance of the prison infrastructure has also been attributed to the escape.
Police sources said the iron bar of the cell gate was cut easily because of its poor condition. The watchtowers were reportedly not well maintained and had very limited lighting to cover the vast boundary wall.
Out of four watchtowers, only two were being manned at the time of the escape, police sources said.
Garo hills has witnessed several jailbreaks in the past including largescale breakouts as recent as three years ago.
In 2009, a group of prisoners tried to break free after attacking guards in broad daylight and armed guards had to open fire injuring a prisoner to prevent the escape. There are only two prisons in Garo hills — Tura and Williamnagar.