Churches targeted in midnight heists by armed gangs in Garo Hills

Loyola, St. Thomas, Sacred heart and Dominic Savio parishes targeted

 TURA: In a string of targeted attacks on churches in the Garo Hills over the past three weeks, criminal gangs have forcibly entered as many as four Catholic church parishes located in three different districts assaulting priests and decamping with several lakhs of rupees during the late midnight hours.

From the Mater Dei Parish at Dawagre in Willaimanagr town, to St. Thomas Church in Chokpot and Sacred Heart Parish in Dalu, the latest to fall victim has been the St. Dominic Savio Parish at Garobadha, 30 kms from Tura.

Taking advantage of the load shedding hours that begin from midnight to 3 AM, as many as twenty criminals with their faces covered forced their way inside the St. Dominic Savio Church at Garobadha on Wednesday at around 1:15 AM.

The gang first entered the house of the main mission building and broke open the main gate to enter the office of the parish priest.

The criminals ransacked the church office by breaking locks and the steel almirahs to look for cash and other valuables. They were able to rob approximately Rs 1,25,000 in cash and other valuables as well as two mobile phones belonging to a priest and a preacher.

The gang then went to the living quarters of the priests and attacked assistant parish priest Rev. Fr Thomas John and preacher Daniel M Sangma. After tying their hands and gagging their mouths, the gang members, who reportedly spoke in broken Garo language, assaulted Fr Thomas john hitting him with iron rods on his right leg and left hand.

While the gang was targeting the two church elders, another assistant parish priest, Rev Fr John Mathias M Marak was alerted about the ongoing robbery and he quickly raised an alarm and began mobilising other inmates of the parish forcing the gang to quickly flee from the scene.

Wednesday’s targeted attack on a church is the fourth incident in the last 18 days indicating that the same modus operandi is being carried out by the criminals.

The first attack was on the Mater Dei (Latin for Mother of God) Loyola Parish at Dawagre in Williamnagar on 13th January night. A group of around a dozen criminals entered the parish and left assistant parish priest Rev Fr Scaria gagged and tied the whole night after failing to find any money.

The second attack targetted the Sacred Heart Church Parish in the border town of Dalu, West Garo Hills, in which the criminals took advantage of the load shedding hours after midnight on January 21st. They forced their way into the church compound by breaking open the iron grill and the gates before decamping with five lakh rupees belonging to the church.

The third attack occurred inside the St. Thomas Church in Chokpot, South Garo Hills, on the night of January 26th. The criminals ransacked the parish office but failed to take away any money.

Meanwhile, in the light of these attacks on churches, a special team headed by an additional Superintendent of Police has been formed to nab the culprits.

“The modus oparandi is the same and we have gotten some clues and two suspects have already been picked up for investigation,” informed West Garo Hills district police chief MGR Kumar while speaking to The Shillong Times.

He also informed that through the DIG of Western Range an inter-district cooperation and intelligence sharing is taking place to nab the groups behind these attacks, while from the district administration side efforts are being to  taken up with the MeECL to move the load shedding timing to the daytime.

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