Jorhat/Nagaon, Nov. 24: Suspected Karbi People’s Liberation Tigers (KPLT) militants abducted a businessman and nine labourers near Kaziranga National Park last evening.
However, six workers were released later and they reached Kuthori in Nagaon district this morning on foot. Ram Mirdha, one of the released workers, told police they were beaten up and made to walk for several hours till they arrived at a camp late last night.
The police today said a group of around six armed youths, in the age group of 16-25 years, came to the site near Bhalukjuri stone quarry under Rongbong Bey police station in Karbi Anglong district around 4.30pm yesterday and abducted Maqbul Hussain, 50, a businessman, and the nine workers at gunpoint.
Mirdha said the youths shifted Hussain and three workers to another location.
The outfit was floated in 2010, after the cadres of the Karbi Longri North Cachar Hills Liberation Front laid down arms. Since its inception, the KPLT has made the areas bordering Nagaon and Karbi Anglong districts their base.
Hussain and the labourers had gone to the site to load trucks with bamboo logs for the Hindusthan Paper Corporation’s Jagiroad-based unit. The incident site is about 225km from Guwahati.
“There were several persons, mostly labourers, present at the site, but all of them fled when the armed youths arrived in the area,” a police officer at the Ronbong Bey police station said. The abductors were armed with AK-series rifles.
The gunmen forcibly took Hussain and nine workers towards the Karbi Anglong hills. The incident came to light when a few labourers who fled from the site, informed the trader’s family. Hussain deals in bamboo apart from supplying stones and gravel to construction projects in Upper Assam. He hails from Kuthori, which is hardly 5km from the incident site.
A high-level team of Karbi Anglong police led by superintendent of police M.J. Mahanta rushed to the site immediately after the incident was reported. “Already both the army and the paramilitary forces are deployed in the area for counter-insurgency operations. The dense forests and the tough terrain are the main obstacles before the security forces in the areas bordering Nagaon and Karbi Anglong and militants took advantage of that,” Mahanta said.
A joint team of Karbi Anglong and Nagaon police has launched an operation in the hills to rescue the rest of the hostages.
Karbi Anglong additional superintendent of police (headquarters), Balin Deuri, said, “The ongoing operation might push the militant outfit to free the hostages at the earliest. We are taking all steps to rescue the abducted persons.”
Sources said the KPLT had demanded money from Hussain but the businessman had not paid heed to the demand. “Hussain hardly visits the stone quarries. His truck drivers and handymen visit the quarries to load the trucks. But yesterday he went to the site despite the fact that KPLT had served him with an extortion note,” the Rongbong Bey police officer said.
He added it could be a trap and some middleman could be involved in luring Hussain to the particular quarry. Hussain owns about four trucks.
Sources close to Hussain’s family said the KPLT has owned up to the abduction and demanded a huge amount for the release of Hussain and the other labourers.
The areas bordering Karbi Anglong district and Kaziranga have been a hotbed of militant activities with rebels serving frequent extortion notices to traders along the highway between Kaliabor in Nagaon district and Numaligarh in Golaghat district.
There have also been several abductions in these areas, including a few in tea gardens, in the past few years. Karbi militants are also responsible for opening fire on vehicles plying on National Highway 37 and raiding forest camps in Kaziranga and looting arms and ammunition from guards.