Shillong: Five policemen were killed in western Meghalaya Tuesday when tribal militants ambushed a police team on its way to a jail to take charge of a prisoner, officials said.
A group of 10-15 heavily armed suspected members of the Garo National Liberation Army (GNLA) attacked the police team in Banjakona area in South Garo Hills district.
The rebels escaped with three AK-47 rifles.
The police personnel were proceeding to Tura, headquarters of West Garo Hills district, to bring a prisoner facing trial from Tura jail to face trial in Baghmara in South Garo Hills.
No militant group has claimed responsibility for the attack, but police suspect the involvement of the outlawed GNLA.
"We had inputs that they (GNLA) were planning to carry out retaliatory attacks following the raid on the residence of the outfit`s military wing chief Sohan D Shira," Meghalaya Police chief Peter James Pyngrope Hanaman told IANS.
Meghalaya Police sounded a security alert Oct 27 after police seized Indian and Bangladeshi currency, satellite telephones and detonators from Shira`s residence.
Police also arrested Shira`s brother-in-law for his "active involvement" as an overground worker of the outfit.
Shira vowed to carry out retaliatory attacks against the security forces.
A search operation has been launched by a joint team of the Meghalaya`s Special Weapons and Tactics and the Combat Battalion for Resolute Action (CoBRA) commandos to nab the rebels involved in the incident, Hanaman said.
"Our men are already on the ground and we are hopeful we`ll track them down at the earliest," he said.
Meanwhile, senior police officials, including the Meghalaya Police chief, rushed to South Garo Hills.
The GNLA, fighting for a separate Garoland, is headed by Champion R Sangma, a former deputy superintendent who deserted Meghalaya Police owing to alleged harassment by his superiors. He floated the GNLA in 2009.
Sangma was arrested July 30 near the India-Bangladesh border in Meghalaya. The state government terminated his services in July 2010.
The outfit, outlawed by the central government, forged an operational alliance with the United Liberation Front of Asom and the National Democratic Front of Bodoland, providing it access to arms and ammunition.
GNLA rebels, who number around 100, unleashed terror in three impoverished districts of Garo Hills in the last one year and killed over 35 people, including security personnel.