Four abducted from colliery

Jorhat, Jan. 10: Four employees of a private company engaged by Coal India Ltd were today abducted by suspected militants from a camp of the company at Tikak coal field in Tinsukia district of Assam, bordering Arunachal Pradesh.

Police sources said four armed men came to the camp, belonging to Brahmaputra Infrastructure Ltd, in a Max pick-up van around noon.

There were over 20 employees of the company in the camp and the suspected militants grabbed four of them. They fired in the air as they left the place and moved towards the inter-state border. As the men fired, the other employees fled.

The kidnapped persons have been identified as Mahendra Baruah (mechanical in-charge), Kunal Basumatary (clerk), Raja Thapa (storekeeper) and Pancham Sarki (helper).

The camp, a kind of workshop on mining equipment and vehicles, is atop a hill (in the Patkai range of hills) and is surrounded by jungles. There are quarters for employees at the foothills.

Known as BII workshop, the camp is under Tikak west colliery of Tikak coal field where open cast mining is done. The site, which falls under Ledo outpost of Margherita police station, is connected by a small motorable road. It is about 3km from Ledo, 12km from Margherita town and 70km from the district headquarters of Tinsukia. It borders Changlang district of Arunachal Pradesh.

Security forces, led by superintendent of police P.P. Singh, reached the camp this afternoon and launched a search operation.

Singh told The Telegraph over phone this evening that the police and the CRPF were carrying out operations in nearby areas. They are being assisted by Assam Rifles troops, who are posted on either side of the boundary, he added.

Singh said investigations so far have not been able to establish whether militants or criminals were behind the abduction. No ransom notice has been served as yet, he added.

Tinsukia deputy commissioner S.S. Meenakshi Sundaram told this correspondent that the matter had been taken up with Changlang district authorities. He said they were also expecting cooperation from the police in the neighbouring state to trace the kidnapped persons. Officials from Margherita subdivision have reached the place to take stock of the situation, he added.

Sources said the Khaplang faction of the NSCN, which is active in the border area, is likely to be behind the abduction.

Last year, the Tinsukia administration, quoting intelligence reports and its own sources, had sent a missive to Dispur stating that militants of the Khaplang faction, along with Maoist cadres, were supporting illegal coal trade along the inter-state boundary in Tinsukia and Changlang.

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