Imphal, Oct. 30: Militants freed three engineers of the Manipur public health engineering department unharmed shortly after midnight last night with both sides claiming that no money had changed hands.
Gunmen of the Kuki Revolutionary Army (KRA) abducted executive engineer Laishram Ibomcha Singh, assistant engineer Ningombam Meino Singh and section officer Okram Upendro Singh from Nongren in Imphal East on October 12 while they were inspecting a project in the area.
The KRA had allegedly demanded Rs 1 crore to release the hostages. However, publicity secretary of the outfit, Th. Misao, told reporters before releasing the three that they were not paid any ransom.
Covered with blankets provided by KRA activists to protect themselves from the chill, the three men walked out of rebel custody exactly at 12.30am today at an undisclosed place in Sadar Hills in Senapati district.
The outfit handed over the hostages to officials of the department in front of a group of reporters. The vehicles carrying the engineers and the reporters first drove to the residence of Th. Lokeshwar Singh, Congress MLA from Khundrakpam in Imphal East.
Manipur Rifles personnel present at the MLAs private residence escorted the hostages to Imphal before they were taken to their respective homes at 3 in the morning.
We were treated and fed well. There was no harassment of any kind while in custody. The cadre were friendly and we discussed things in a very cordial manner, a jubilant Ibomcha told the reporters.
Explaining why the outfit abducted the engineers, Misao said the KRA wanted to probe financial dealings between the public health engineering department and a deserter of the KRA named D.T. Haokip. We found that lakhs of rupees had changed hands between the department and the deserter. We also found during investigation irregularities in the implementation of hill development projects by the PHE department.
He said the engineers were freed as the investigations were complete. He did not spell out the next step after the completion of the probe.
The KRA demanded that all the departments should take up development projects equally in all the nine districts of Manipur without any discrimination.
The PHE department also clarified that no ransom money was paid to the KRA.
The employees organisation of the department threatened to cease work from tomorrow if the government failed to rescue the hostages by today. A pressure group formed by clubs and meira paibis (women activists) of the localities of the three engineers were also planning to launch an agitation from today.
Gunmen abducted an executive engineer of irrigation and flood control department this morning from Singjamei in Imphal West.
The engineer, Yaiskul Singh, was on his way to office.