TURA, Aug 9 � Four Garo militants belonging to the Garo National Liberation Army (GNLA) including its deputy army chief have been gunned down by security forces and a huge cache of weapons seized in remote East Garo Hills district during early hours of Tuesday.
Special Weapons and Tactics Team (SWAT) commandos of Meghalaya police attacked a camp of the GNLA inside the thick jungles of Bolkimgre, 2 kms from district headquarters Williamnagar resulting in an encounter with the militants.
The attack was met with fierce resistance by the group of six well armed militants who kept the commandos at bay for close to an hour in the heavy exchange of fire that began shortly after 12.30 am.
When the firing ceased four militants were found killed. One police commando also sustained bullet injuries.
Among the dead was Roster Marak alias Kagrim, a former police constable who became the Deputy army chief of GNLA. The three other militants killed have been identified as Henithson Sangma alias Jarongpang, Peter Momin alias Bruno and Jekyll Marak. Two militants who escaped the police onslaught are believed to be Darwin D Shira and Bilgrim M Sangma.
Police seized from the militant camp an AK-81 assault rifle, a powerful a 5.56 calibre MKS rifle, a grenade launcher with five live grenades, a Chinese M20 pistol, 5 chinese hand grenades, 2 powerful army supply grenades and a large cylindrical grenade. As many as 332 rounds of live ammunition meant for AK rifles, Insas, MKS rifle and long range sniper rifle were confiscated from the camp.
The killing of the central command leader of GNLA, Roster Marak, is seen as a major blow to the outfit which has been the most difficult to contain by security forces in its drive against insurgency in the Garo Hills.
The central command controlled the purse strings and also had the best weapons. Roster Marak was a close confidante of Sohan Shira and was involved in the daring and gruesome murder of an innocent villager whom they dragged from the jungles to kill in the heart of Williamnagar town during the night, a month ago.
Meanwhile, the Garo militant group was quick to respond to the loss of its four senior cadres. The political affairs secretary of GNLA, Bikdot Nikjang Marak, called up media persons in Tura to threaten retaliation over the death of its cadres. The outfit accused the MLAs of responsibility for the ongoing operations against the group.
In the meantime, a red alert has been sounded throughout the three districts of Garo Hills over possible retaliation by the militants. Security has been beefed up at all police stations and remote outposts to counter any possible retaliatory attacks by the oufit.