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2,500 SIM cards disconnected in Meghalaya

By The Assam Tribune

SHILLONG, Dec 17 � Extortion threats from unknown persons as well as militant groups have caused concern in the Meghalaya police which has zeroed in on a set of numbers for verification by Telecom operators.

The Meghalaya Police Special Branch has sent two separate lists � one with 448 numbers and another with 3026 numbers � to Aircel for verification, Additional Director General (special branch) SK Jain said.

The Telecom operator has written back saying that some 2,500 numbers in the list have been disconnected and that most of them were bulk connections, company sources said.

The development follows an extortion call to an MLA of Meghalaya.

The caller was picked up by the police at Baghmara in Meghalaya�s South Garo Hills district and he, the police says, was not linked to any militant group.

Following the trail, the police picked up for questioning an executive of Aircel posted at Tura who allegedly issued over 1,000 connections in a single name.

Officer in charge of Tura Police Station D K Rajbongshi said a case has been registered against Aircel territorial manager A Gupta under sections 406/420 of the IPC. Gupta is suspected to have been involved in the misappropriation of over 3,000 SIM cards. Gupta was later released on bail.

Police sources said mobile companies were flooding the market with SIM cards without any proper documentation and some of the numbers have landed in the hands of miscreants and militants.

Numbers registered in places like Manipur and Nagaland have been traced to persons who are living in Garo Hills for months together, the police said.

At least two Meghalaya MLAs besides local level politicians in Garo Hills, traders and traditional chiefs have been getting extortion calls over the last few months.

There is an estimated 10 million mobile phone users in the Northeastern States.

Since the later part of 2004, when pre-paid connections were re-introduced after they were lifted for some time, the license for pre-paid connections has been awarded on an annual basis in the North East. � PTI

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