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GNLA treated us well, say released engineers



Shillong, February 6 (IANS): The two Meghalaya government engineers who were held hostage by Garo National Liberation Army (GNLA) terrorists describe their 11 days in captivity as "fearful", but say they were treated well. Assistant executive engineer Apus Pohthmi and junior engineer Bonnieface Majaw of the Meghalaya Energy Corporation Limited (MeECL), posted in West Garo Hills district, were freed by GNLA Saturday night after trekking almost 30 km of dense forests, hills and rivulets.
"They provided us good food and looked after us well, but our experience was fearful, as we didn't know what was going to happen next," Pohthmi told journalists. "We didn't see any camps but we were kept captive in the jungle whole day and night under the supervision of a GNLA action commander, Kamphret Sangma," he said.
Pohthmi and Majaw were given a public reception at the MeECL office in Shillong Sunday evening on their arrival from Rongkhon village in West Garo Hills district. "They released us after the (Meghalaya) government assured that every non-electrified village in Garo Hills would get power connection," Majaw said. GNLA, which was declared a terrorist organisation, had claimed the two engineers were abducted due to the failure of the government to provide power connectivity in the three insurgency-ravaged districts of Garo Hills in western Meghalaya.
The government, on the other hand, says it has launched various schemes for improving power supply, including implementing the Rajiv Gandhi rural electrification programme in Garo Hills. According to the duo, they were kept somewhere in Nokrek reserve forest after being abducted by four armed GNLA terrorists from their official quarters at Rongkhon.
GNLA had abducted another engineer, Marshal R. Swer, on the same day, but he was immediately released. "They had some conversation and released Swer, but Pohthmi and I were held back," Majaw added. On Saturday night, the terrorists after informing the engineers that they were being released helped them out of the jungle. "Finally, they showed us a metalled road downhill and asked us to take its course and reach our residential quarters. We hitched a vehicle and returned. We are so happy to be back," the duo echoed.
Several organisations, including MeECL employees, separately appealed to the GNLA for the immediate and unconditional release of the engineers on humanitarian grounds. Over 30 people, including security personnel, have been killed while more than 10 were abducted for ransom in the area in the last one year by GNLA rebels.

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