GNLA rebels kill two jail officials in Meghalaya


Shillong : Rebels of the outlawed Garo National Liberation Army (GNLA) killed two jail officials in an attack on a Meghalaya prison late Saturday, police said Sunday.

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A group of five to eight heavily armed GNLA rebels stormed the Williamnagar jail in East Garo Hills district and shot dead assistant jailor Neil Warjri and injured warder Sharai Singh Thabah, who died at the district’s Tura civil hospital early Sunday.

“None of the prisoners, including jailed GNLA rebels, could manage to escape from the jail,” Director General of Prisons Prem Singh, told IANS. “We will investigate if there were security lapses,” he added.

East Garo Hills Deputy Commissioner Vijay Mantri said a magisterial inquiry has been ordered into the incident.

A search operations has been launched by a joint team of Meghalaya’s Special Weapons and Tactics and Combat Battalion for Resolute Action (CoBRA) commandos to nab the rebels involved in the incident, State Director General of Police Kulbir Krishan said.

Inspector General of Police H. Nongpluh, in-charge of the Western Range, rushed to Williamnagar to take stock of the situation.

“Our men are already on the ground and we are hopeful we’ll track them (rebels) down at the earliest,” Krishan said.

Preparations are on for the Feb 23 assembly elections in Megalaya.

Although most of the polling stations in the Williamnagar assembly constituency have been classified as “hyper-sensitive”, the attack has exposed inadequate security arrangements to thwart attacks by rebels.

On Friday, 10 companies of paramilitary forces were deployed in East Garo Hills district to ensure smooth conduct of the elections, a police official said.

The GNLA, fighting for a separate Garoland in the western region of Meghalaya, has forged close operational links with other northeast-based insurgent groups like the United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) and the National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB).

The GNLA’s foot soldiers are deserters from other insurgent groups, mostly from the NDFB, the Achik National Volunteers Council (ANVC) and the Liberation of Achik Elite Force (LAEF).

According to police, the GNLA has reportedly made extortion demands ranging from Rs.5 lakh to Rs.1 crore from legislators, government officials and businessmen in the state.

Meghalaya, especially the Garo Hills region, is said to be a safe haven for various northeast-based militant groups including the NSCN-IM, the ULFA and a faction of the NDFB.