Shillong: Founder and general secretary of militant outfit Garo National Liberation Army (GNLA) Novembirth Ch Marak has been arrested from Siliguri railway station in West Bengal, dealing a blow to the group`s network, a senior Meghalaya police official said Sunday.
"Novembirth is a prize catch for us in our operation against the GNLA," Superintendent of Police Dalton P. Marak, who is in-charge of the West Garo Hills district, said.
Luxmary Sangma, the militant leader`s girlfriend was also arrested while they were trying to board a train to Kolkata Saturday.
Novembirth, the Number 3 man in the tribal Garo militant outfit, fell into the trap of the Meghalaya Police after a cash reward was announced for any information leading to his arrest.
On April 30, the militant leader managed to give police the slip -- though not without receiving an injury -- following an encounter with the Special Operations Team at the Bolchugre village and had since been hiding in one place or the other.
Novembirth also exposed the linkages of the GNLA with other militant outfits, including the National Socialist Council of Nagaland-Isak-Muivah (NSCN-IM), United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) and National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB).
"He (Novembirth) had held several meetings with an NSCN (I-M) leader for arms supplies and to impart guerrilla warfare training," the police official said.
Not only that, the GNLA general secretary said that the outfit has a strength of 30 cadres and possessed two AK-47 rifles, a semi-automatic machine gun, 20 small arms, and 25 grenades besides country-made bombs.
The GNLA, which is fighting for a `sovereign Garoland` in the western areas of Meghalaya, is headed by Champion R. Sangma, a policeman-turned-rogue, whose cadres are deserters, mostly from the NDFB, A`chik National Volunteers Council (ANVC) and Liberation of Achik Elite Force (LAEF).
Champion also roped in John Robert Ch Marak alias Toding, a dismissed constable with the 1st Meghalaya Police battalion, who joined the GNLA as `deputy commander-in-chief`.
"On his (Novembirth) leads, we also arrested the outfit`s finance secretary Solte Sangma and Martin Sangma from Williamnagar in East Garo Hills district and we expect more arrests in the days to come," Marak said.
The GNLA had earlier slapped extortion demands ranging from Rs.500,000 to Rs.1 crore on politicians, petrol pump owners, coal dealers and businessmen in the coal-rich districts of Garo Hills.
A former minister in the previous D.D. Lapang ministry and a retired inspector general of police were among those who received extortion demands.