GUWAHATI: Cornered after the arrest of its chief’s wife, a Meghalaya insurgent group on Wednesday freed 10 abducted Assam traders. They were kidnapped by the Achik Songa Anpachakgipa Kotok (ASAK) on October 28 at gun-point when they were travelling to a weekly market in Meghalaya’s Bilkona near the India-Bangladesh border from Assam’s Mancachar.
“Due to heavy police pressure mounted on the kidnappers, all the 10 victims were released early today (Wednesday) morning. They were released unconditionally at a forested area near Gasuapara (in the district),” South Garo Hills superintendent of police Anand Mishra told Express. “They’re now in Gasuapara outpost. All of them are fine.
They’ll be escorted to their homes after examination. Meanwhile, an intensified offensive has been launched against the militants,” he added. The outfit was under tremendous pressure following the arrest of Fernia N Sangma, wife of its chief Reding T Sangma. Following her arrest, she was charged with colluding with the insurgent group.
“The insurgents were under pressure following her arrest. We had seized Rs.2.3 lakh, which was to be used to lure youths to join the outfit. We cracked down on five bank accounts, which she operated on behalf of the outfit and were going after their overground workers and sympathizers,” Mishra said. He said the outfit was being run with just around a dozen rebels.
“Usually, after an incident of abduction, they contact the family of the abductees for ransom. In this incident, they kept quiet leaving us to worry about the fate of the traders. They have been released as the outfit is under pressure following Fernia’s arrest,” Mishra added.
This was the second major incident of abduction of traders in the district in recent times. Eight other Assam traders were kidnapped by the militants of Garo National Liberation Army (GNLA) on September 29.
A week later, all of them were released following payment of ransom. Extortions, abductions and killings of traders and government officials by the militants are common in the insurgency-infested Garo Hills. After committing a crime, the insurgents would often sneak into Bangladesh, making it very difficult for the police and paramilitary forces to go after them.