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Meghalaya mulls chopper use to fight rebels

By The Assam Tribune

Shillong, Aug 1 (IANS): The Meghalaya government is mulling use of helicopters to provide aerial support to security forces fighting the Garo National Liberation Army (GNLA) rebels in inaccessible terrain and thick jungles in the Garo Hills region, an official said on Sunday.

"In a recent meeting, the central government has allowed us to hire helicopters for aerial support to security forces on the ground to counter the GNLA rebels, but we are yet to take a decision on it," SK Jain, intelligence chief of Meghalaya Police, told IANS. "The aerial support is not meant for aerial attacks, but it's aimed at providing logistical support in terms of dropping men, weapons and ration to ground troops in inaccessible terrain," he said.

"If the government decides to go for aerial support, we would first take the community people into confidence to thwart any panic and confusion and to ensure that nobody interprets it as aerial attack," said Jain, who has supervised counter-insurgency operations in Jammu and Kashmir and Manipur.

The Commando Battalion for Resolute Action (CoBRA), the Border Security Force and Meghalaya's Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) commandos have planned a crackdown against the GNLA rebels in western Meghalaya.

"I think the government should aid us with this (aerial support) because, many times, they (rebels) manage to give us a slip due to the terrain and better knowledge on the area," a SWAT commando told IANS.

The Garo Hills region, the most backward in Meghalaya, has witnessed a spurt of the rebel group's anti-national activities in the recent months. It slapped extortion demands on government officials and businessmen in the region.

The GNLA, one of the five Garo rebel groups fighting for a 'sovereign Garoland' in the western area of Meghalaya, is headed by police officer-turned-rogue Champion R Sangma.

Six killed in Meghalaya bus accident:Six people, including a woman, were killed and 30 others injured Sunday when a bus they were travelling in fell into a gorge in Meghalaya's West Khasi Hills district, police said.

The accident took place at Mawmaram village, about 40 km from state capital Shillong, said N Rajamarthandan, West Khasi Hills district police chief. "Four people, including a woman, died on the spot, while the driver of the bus and a passenger succumbed to injuries at hospital," Rajamarthandan told IANS by phone.

The bus was ferrying passengers to Nongstoin, the district headquarters of West Khasi Hills from Shillong, he said.

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