**EDS: (COMBO) HANDOUT IMAGES PROVIDED BY ARMY ON SATURDAY, APRIL. 24, 2021** Mon: ONGC offcials Alakesh Saikia and Mohini Mohan Gogoi rescued by Indian Army along with Assam Rifles in an operation on Friday night, Mon in Nagaland, Saturday, on April 24,2021. One AK 47 has also been recovered. (PTI Photo)
Kolkata, April 24 (IANS) After the Indian Army along with Assam Rifles personnel rescued two abducted ONGC employees from the clutches of the United Liberation Front of Asom-Independent (ULFA-I) late on Friday night, the separatist group said on Saturday that two of the three ONGC employees were safe, but the third one had gone missing.
ULFA-I spokesperson Rumel Asom said in a statement that since the three ONGC employees, all ethnic Assamese, were 'picked up' by their fighters from a rig site at Lakwa in Assam's Sibsagar district on Wednesday, 500 soldiers and armed policemen mounted a massive operation to rescue the abducted staff.
Asom claimed that the 73 Brigade of the Indian Army, 35th Battalion of Assam Rifles and Nagaland armed police were involved in the operation.
He said the forces encircled the ULFA fighters at Totok in Nagaland's Mon district and a series of encounters took place in and around the Chinkgu village in the area on the intervening night of Friday and Saturday.
"Keeping in mind the security of the abducted ONGC employees, our fighters left them in the safe custody of the local Tangsha Naga villagers. Alokesh Saikia and Mohini Mohan Gogoi were recovered safely by the security forces but we have no idea what happened to Ritul Saikia," the spokesperson said.
He said the ULFA is checking whether Saikia, an assistant junior engineer with ONGC, had been hit during the encounters, while disowning responsibility for such an eventuality.
In a series of tweets on Wednesday morning, ONGC had said the employees were driven away by "unknown armed miscreants" in a vehicle belonging to ONGC at gunpoint.
The vehicle was later found abandoned near the Nimonagarh jungles, close to the Assam-Nagaland border.
"All the three abducted persons are local residents of Assam," Sivasagar SP, Amitava Sinha, told IANS.
While Mohini Mohan Gogoi (junior technician, production) hails from Sivasagar district, Alokesh Saikia (assistant junior egineer, production) is from Jorhat district and Ritul Saikia is from Golaghat district.
In December last year, ULFA-I and the Myanmar-faction of NSCN (K) had abducted two employees of Quippo Oil and Gas Infrastructure Limited from the Kumchaikha drilling site near Innao in Changlang district in Arunachal Pradesh.
They were released in April after long negotiations conducted not so secretly. The ULFA-I had insisted that Quipppo should only employ locals.
Public sector behemoth ONGC is India's biggest oil and gas exploration and production company.