Meghalaya rebel outfit's headquarters captured

Security forces Tuesday overran the general headquarters of the outlawed Garo National Liberation Army (GNLA) in the Garo Hills region in the western part of Meghalaya, police said.

Unconfirmed reports said two GNLA rebels were killed while two others were injured and a cache of sophisticated weapons recovered in the crackdown launched by commandos of Meghalaya's Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) unit and the Combat Battalion for Resolute Action (CoBRA).

"We have overrun the general headquarters of the GNLA this afternoon in Durama hill range near Adugre village in East Garo Hills district," Sunil Kumar Jain, the intelligence chief of Meghalaya police, told IANS over phone.

"We have not been able to confirm whether there was any casualty, but unconfirmed reports say two GNLA rebels were killed while two others were wounded in the gunfight with the commandos," Jain said.

"We have not been able to communicate with them (security forces) since telecommunication is out of bounds in the area. We are hopeful by tomorrow (Wednesday) morning, we will get a report of the entire operation," the police official 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 safe sanctuary. Sohan D. Shira, chief of the GNLA's military wing, also controls his rebels from Durama.

Meanwhile, Monday night, a group of GNLA rebels managed to cross over to India from Bangladesh through the Gasuapara area in the South Garo Hills with a huge consignment of RDX explosives.

"We received intelligence inputs that a group of seven to eight GNLA rebels were crossing over from Bangladesh with a consignment of explosives and based on those inputs, a team was sent to the area," Davies R. Marak, the district police chief of South Garo Hills, said.

However, Marak said the rebels, taking advantage of the darkness, managed to escape following a gunfight with the police team. "We don't have any inputs whether the rebels have retreated back to Bangladesh, but the operation to track them and the explosives is on," he said.

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 backfoot as most of its cadres have surrendered to the government.

The GNLA, fighting for a separate Garoland in the western area of 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.