Combing operations stepped up n Meghalaya’s Garo Hills

Shillong, Dec 11: Security forces intensified combing operations against Garo National Liberation Army (GNLA) rebels in western Meghalaya after they overran the general headquarters of the outlawed outfit, a police official said Wednesday.

“The operation is in full swing, and has yielded good results. However, we cannot divulge details at this stage,” Meghalaya Police chief Peter James Pyngrope Hanaman told IANS.

On Wednesday, a joint team of commandos of Meghalaya’s Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) unit and the Combat Battalion for Resolute Action (CoBRA) overran the GNLA general headquarters in Durama hill range near Adugre village in East Garo Hills district.

“Although they (GNLA rebels) managed to escape from the hideout (their general headquarters), we have recovered a cache of weapons, explosives and incriminating documents,” Hanaman said.

Durama hill range is a vast, densely forested area in the Garo Hills which the GNLA and the United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) rebels have been using as their sanctuary.

Sohan D. Shira, chief of the GNLA’s military wing, also controls his rebels from Durama.

Meanwhile, Meghalaya Police have confirmed that there was no casualty in Tuesday’s crackdown on the GNLA general headquarters.

“We have confirmed that there were no casualties on both sides in yesterday’s (Tuesday) crackdown, but we have seized one MA3 (Mark-II) assault rifle, a China-made hand grenade, two pistol magazines, four rounds of 5.56 live ammunition, ten Neogel gelatine sticks, identity cards and incriminating documents from the GNLA’s headquarters,” said J.F.K. Marak, the district police chief of East Garo Hills.

Meghalaya, especially the Garo Hills region, is being used as a safe haven by various northeast-based militant groups, including the National Socialist Council of Nagaland-Isak-Muivah (NSCN-IM), the United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA), and the National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB).

With the outlawed A’chik National Volunteers Council (ANVC) on a ceasefire agreement with the central government, the NSCN-IM and the ULFA spawned several rebel groups with the intention of exploiting the lucrative extortion in the coal-rich areas of the Garo Hills region.

Another outlawed outfit, the Hynniewtrep National Liberation Council (HNLC), has been demanding a sovereign Khasi homeland in Meghalaya. The outfit is currently on the back foot as most of its cadre have surrendered to the government.

The GNLA, fighting for a separate Garoland in western Meghalaya, has also forged an alliance with the Bangladesh-based rebel group, A’chik Special Dragon. It also has links with the NSCN-IM, the ULFA and the NDFB.

At least 46 people, including nine security personnel, have been killed in acts of insurgency since January in the Garo Hills region.