Express News Service
GUWAHATI: Insurgent group United Liberation Front of Assam (ULFA) had enquired about the medical condition of a group of employees of the Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC) before abducting three of them.
Junior technicians Mohini Mohan Gogoi, Ritul Saikia and junior engineering assistant Alakesh Saikia were abducted from an ONGC rig site in the Lakwa field of Assam’s Sivasagar district on Wednesday.
According to sources from multiple security agencies, the five-member gang of the rebels had swooped down on the site at around 3 am on that day. There were eight employees, including an ambulance driver. An ambulance is usually stationed at every rig site for any exigency.
“Five militants had come armed with sophisticated weapons. They enquired about the health condition of the employees and abducted three of them after finding them to be the fittest among the lot,” the sources said quoting the ambulance driver.
The reason behind abducting the three young and fit employees was that they had to be taken miles away to the jungles of Myanmar, where the ULFA operates from.
“It’s a long route. To reach there, you have to walk as well as trek along a treacherous terrain for days together. That is precisely the reason why the three young and fit men were abducted,” a defence source with a fair knowledge of the geography of the region told this newspaper.
The militants took the help of the ambulance and its driver during the abduction. After travelling a certain distance, three of them got down along with the abductees. The three others continued with the drive.
“After travelling for a while, all of them got down. The militants then blindfolded the driver and asked him not to unmask for 30 minutes before leaving the site,” the sources said.
Later, the ambulance was found abandoned near the Nimonagarh jungles close to the Assam-Nagaland border.
The police arrested 14 people in connection with the incident. “We have arrested 14 people. Our investigation is on,” Sivasagar Superintendent of Police, Amitava Sinha said.
The security forces have launched multiple operations in Assam and Nagaland as they try to trace and rescue the three abducted persons.
The Centre is learnt to have viewed the incident very seriously. First, the employees abducted are of a public sector undertaking of the Government of India. Secondly, the militants had carried out the operation deep inside Assam.
The incident comes amidst the perception among security establishments that the ULFA is a spent force, left with only 100 odd members and active only in the jungles of Myanmar and the India-Myanmar border.
The sources ruled out ransom as the reason behind the abduction. It could be political, they said.
In December, the ULFA had abducted two employees of New Delhi-based oil exploration firm Quippo Oil and Gas Infrastructure from Arunachal Pradesh before releasing them earlier this month. The outfit had then demanded a ransom of Rs 20 crore.