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TURA: One of the oldest Garo militant outfits after the ANVC that operated extensively in the North and East Garo Hills region much before the arrival of the GNLA and had spread terror with its grenade attack inside the Tura Supermarket has finally bid farewell to its armed struggle.
The last of the two factions of the Garo outfit Liberation of Achik Elite Force (LAEF) which had continued its criminal activities and evaded capture for so long has at last called it a day with the surrender of its military chief and his aides on Sunday morning at Dainadubi police outpost in North Garo Hills.
LAEF commander-in-chief Mathew G Momin, from Kamalpara-Bakrapur village of Dudhnoi, led his faction to the surrender ceremony handing over an AK 47 rifle, a shotgun and two pistols along with several rounds of ammunition. The surrender was made possible through the intervention of church leaders, families and villagers, particularly United Christian Peace Forum (UCPF) elder Panpan Marak, Damas MDC and GHADC executive member Dolly K Sangma and village elders.
Along with Mathew was his deputy military chief Ravan Basumatary (28) of Chitukhona village in Damas and four other senior cadres of the outfit – Tenik Sangma (30) of Naringgre Rongjeng, Negrus Sangma (25) of Khardang Dorengtop (Krishnai), Lepjin Shira (25) of Chitukhona and Heswar Areng (31) of Songsak.
The surrender comes just three days after East Garo Hills police shot dead Augustine Marak who was the head of the other LAEF faction. Augustine was killed during an encounter with police at Chichra reserve forest of Rongjeng on April 13.
Both Augustine and Mathew were part of the original LAEF that had been formed by a rebel police commando called Peter Marak. Peter was arrested from a vehicle near Jorabat on the Assam-Meghalaya border while returning from Nagaland. He was subsequently killed while leading police to a hideout of the LAEF in a forest in East Garo Hills, the same night.
The LAEF had earned notoriety for the attack on the Tura Supermarket on a busy summer evening in which two persons were killed. Despite the death of Peter and his younger brother Darong, who had taken over the leadership mantle, the group continued to be a problem for security forces for many years until the split into two factions.
Both LAEF factions had been involved in a series of extortion and kidnapping incidents in the Garo Hills. They previously operated in the West Khasi Hills region after the killing of Peter Marak but shifted base two years ago taking up refuge in the North and East Garo Hills districts.
The Garo rebel outfit was actively involved with NSCN-IM militants post Peter’s death and a handful of Naga rebels jointly operated with the group deep in the jungles of West Khasi Hills and East Garo Hills region targeting the lucrative coal export.
On December 7, 2008, during a raid on the new LAEF militant chief’s hideout at Damit village of Shallang in West Khasi Hills, a police commando (SoT) R.D. Sangma was killed in the exchange of fire as the Garo rebels and their Naga ally tried to fight back. The new chief of the LAEF Kimrey K Sangma was also shot dead in the encounter and his AK rifle recovered.
Following Augustine Marak’s death and the surrender of Mathew Momin, this week, Garo Hills police are optimistic the rest of the rebels who continue to evade capture will ultimately give themselves up to authorities. Police intelligence sources reveal that just a handful of militants from both factions remain underground and attempts are being made through church leaders and village elders to persuade them to return to the mainstream.