Shillong: Security forces arrested two Garo National Liberation Army rebels after a fierce gunfight in Meghalaya`s West Garo Hills district, a police official said Sunday.
The exchange of fire took place at Chigitchakgre area of the district late Saturday night, when Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) commandos came under fire from the GNLA rebels hiding there.
However, the outfit`s area commander of West Garo Hills, Hedio, wanted by Meghalaya police for several criminal acts, escaped, taking advantage of the darkness during the gunbattle.
"The encounter lasted over an hour and two of the rebels were captured by us and their area commander retreated back to the jungle after intensive firing from security forces," Mukesh Kumar Singh, district police chief of West Garo Hills, told a news agency.
The arrested rebels were Brightwell D Arengh alias Chiga and Nathson Ch Marak. They were involved in abduction and extortion in Garo Hills.
The commandos recovered one AK-47 rifle, three magazines with 55 rounds of live ammunition, a detonator, fuse wire, remote control, communication sets, and extortion notes from the site.
Preparations are on for the Feb 23 assembly elections in Megalaya.
Many polling stations in the five districts of Garo in the western part of Meghalaya has been classified as "hyper-sensitive". Ten companies of paramilitary forces were deployed in East Garo Hills district to ensure smooth conduct of the elections, a police official said.
The GNLA, fighting for a separate Garoland in the western region of Meghalaya, has forged close operational links with other northeast-based insurgent groups like the United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) and the National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB).
Meghalaya, especially the Garo Hills region, is said to be a safe haven for various northeast-based militant groups, including the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (Isak-Muivah), the United Liberation Front of Asom, and a faction of the National Democratic Front of Bodoland.