Presence of GNLA chief’s wife and children prevented all-out attack, says police

SWAT attacks GNLA camp, Sohan escapes

From Our Correspondent

TURA: SWAT commandos from Williamnagar came close to nabbing GNLA army chief Sohan D Shira when they raided his jungle hideout but had to restrain from an all out offensive because of the presence of the wife and children of the militant leader.

The close shave for the militant leader came on the afternoon of the country’s Republic Day celebrations at a jungle hideout near Nengmaldalgre village across the Simsang river not far from Williamnagar.

Believing that police will be over stretched for law and order duty on Republic day celebrations in the district the militant leader dropped his guard inviting his wife and two children into the camp located at Rongri stream, 2 kms south of Nengmaldalgre village.

“Our commandos had been in search of the area for over 38 hours when they came across a hideout. Before they could move in they heard children’s voices and had to immediately stop the advancement during which time one of their sentries spotted the raiding party and opened fire,” said police from Williamnagar.

The police commandos had to minimize their return of fire for fear of hitting the wife and children of the militant leader.

“We had 2 inch morters and powerful hand grenades that would have blown up the entire camp at one go but our boys had been clearly briefed not to use them wherever civilians are present,” said East Garo Hills SP JFK Marak.

Sohan’s wife, his eldest daughter and infant son were playing in the camp when the commandos came across the hideout.

Under covering fire provided by the GNLA cadres Sohan Shira managed to escape with his family.

“He was taunting us that we had run out of bullets because we stopped firing but little did he know that our objective was not to allow any innocent civilian to get in the line of fire. We have a humanitarian side unlike them,” said the police chief who had on three other occasions came close to nabbing the militant leader.

Echoing similar views, Meghalaya IGP GHP Raju said, “Our fight is against Sohan who is a hardened criminal and not against his wife and children who are innocent. This principled approach may delay the results but it is worth sticking to it.”

After the encounter police entered the camp and found it well provided with basic amenities and children’s wear. The camp housed approximately 11 to 12 cadres of the outfit and was in operation for almost five months.

According to the police commandos the militants were last spotted fleeing towards Bawagre region of the Simsang riverside.

In earlier operations police commandos came close to nabbing the militant leader on four occasions one of which was on Easter Sunday last year when he had sneaked into his house in Chasatgre-Nengmandalgre to enjoy Easter celebrations. Police attacked his house just as he was sitting down for a meal forcing him to flee. When they raided his house a second time last year, he again managed to escape and the third time was when he was in a jungle camp at Ganenggre in which police killed two of his cadres.

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