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ULFA anti-talk group to decide fate of two hostages on Feb 17

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Guwahati, Jan 28 (IANS) The anti-talk outlawed terror outfit, United Liberation Front of Asom-Independent (ULFA-I) on Thursday said that it has set February 17 to decide the fate of the two employees of private sector oil company it had abducted last month.

Pranab Kumar Gogoi, a drilling superintendent, and Ram Kumar, a radio operator of Delhi-based Quippo Oil and Gas Infrastructure Ltd, were kidnapped at gunpoint by ULFA-I insurgents from the drilling site in Innao area of Arunachal Pradesh’s Changlang district on December 21 last year.

The ULFA-I, which is currently headed by its “commander-in-chief” Paresh Barua, in a statement issued to the media, said that if the drilling company “fails to take positive steps to secure the release of their employees by February 16, the outfit would take action against one of the hostages Ram Kumar on February 17”.

“If Quippo Oil and Gas Infrastructure Ltd fails to meet our demands, the company would not be allowed to operate in Assam and South East Asia,” it said, but did not not specify its demands.

Arunachal Pradesh Police chief R.P. Upadhyaya told IANS over phone from Itanagar that the militants had earlier demanded Rs 20 crore to release the two. The security forces of Assam and Arunachal Pradesh are searching the location of the hostages to rescue them.

According to the police, in a video reportedly released by the ULFA-I, Gogoi, a resident of Assam’s Sivasagar district, and Ram Kumar, who hails from Bihar’s Khagaria district, are heard saying that they are now in the captivity of the ULFA-I and the National Socialist Council of Nagaland Isak-Muivah (NSCN-IM) and they urged Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal and Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar to get them released.

The staff of the private gas and oil drilling company last week appealed to the Chief Ministers to secure the captives’ release. Quippo Oil and Gas Infrastructure Ltd, which is working in oil and gas drilling in Assam and Arunachal Pradesh, has also urged the authorities to rescue their employees.

The ULFA-I, which was banned by the government in 1990, has been demanding an independent Assam while the NSCN-IM has held several rounds of negotiations with the Central government in and outside India after signing a ceasefire pact in August 1997.

Meanwhile, three hardcore ULFA-I cadres were arrested by the Assam Rifles in Tirap district in southern Arunachal Pradesh on Thursday as they crossed over from Myanmar.

The apprehended militants have been identified as Milan Baruah alias Nijan Asom, self-styled ‘Major’ Jintu Asom alias Bikeswar Asom and Gaurab Asom alias Rajib Gogoi. Three .32 pistols and several rounds of ammunition were recovered from the possession of the ULFA-I cadres, who were handed over to Tirap police station.

–IANS

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