Tura, June 26: Meghalaya police today rescued four abducted traders unharmed from the clutches of a group of GNLA and Ulfa (Independent) militants from a remote location in the West Garo Hills district.
The police said one Ulfa (I) cadre was killed in the rescue operation. The group comprised six GNLA and three Ulfa (I) cadres.
The four traders were abducted yesterday when they were on their way to Dadenggre weekly market from Phulbari town in the West Garo Hills.
Phulbari is 100km and Dadenggre is about 45km from Tura.
Gulu, Shah Alam, Azgar Ali and Atwar Ali, all from Kaimbathapara village under Phulbari police station, took the Phulbari-Dadenggre route. Militants stopped the pick-up van they were travelling in and dragged them out. They were abducted at gunpoint in Kantanagre village around 9.30am.
An operation is still on to track down the abductors.
Superintendent of police, West Garo Hills, Mukesh Singh, said: “We had solid inputs about the abductors and intensified our operation today from 6.30am. We managed to trace the hideout at Darekgre near Rongmasugre village and rescued the traders around 9.30am.”
The police said two militants spotted the rescue team and opened fire. The policemen retaliated. In the exchange of fire that lasted for about 15 minutes, the Ulfa (I) cadre was killed. Others managed to escape leaving behind the four traders.
Darekgre village is near Damal Asim village, about 20km northeast of Dadenggre. The slain Ulfa (I) cadre has been identified as Dharma Kanta Rai, who is popularly known to the GNLA as “Garo Champa”.
“Rai was an IED expert and was used by the GNLA to target the police. He was very much involved in different abductions in the plains of Garo hills in the past few months,” Singh said.
According to the police, at least nine cadres of both the outfits held the four traders captive at Darekgre village. “We are yet to confirm in whose house they were sheltered,” Singh said.
Unconfirmed reports said they were taking shelter in the house of the village headman of Darekgre. “We are waiting for our team to return. It will give us all details about their operation. They have recovered an AK-56 rifle, 66 bullets, two AK magazines, one 7.65mm pistol, one pistol magazine, 3 live rounds of a 7.65mm pistol, a walkie-talkie, two plastic explosives, three detonators, approximately 33,000 in cash and demand notes of the GNLA,” Singh said.
The police suspect that the abduction was planned under the command of Kimpret, a top GNLA militant, who is the area commander of Dadenggre.
The inspector-general of police (operations), G.H.P. Raju, said: “The GNLA and Ulfa are on an abduction spree in Dadenggre, Phulbari and Tikrikilla areas and have been sharing their loot. Ulfa is taking the support of the GNLA in this area for shelter and finance.”