Shillong, July 19: A three-hour gunfight between security forces and Garo rebels Friday ended after a Garo National Liberation Army (GNLA) commander was killed in Meghalaya.
Acting on a tip off, security forces raided Basamgre village in the East Garo Hill district, about 300 km west of Shillong.
The gun battle began when the militants fired at the security forces. Area commander Pilon M. Sangma was killed, district police chief J.F.K. Marak told IANS.
Pilon was wanted in several cases of murder, kidnapping and extortion in Garo Hills. Police said his killing was a major setback to the outfit.
An AK-47 rifle, three magazines with 148 rounds of live ammunition, one US-made .45 Colt pistol with 17 rounds of ammunition, a grenade and a high frequency wireless set were recovered from the site.
Sohan D. Shira, military wing chief of GNLA, has threatened retaliation.
"If our GNLA cadres are killed in this way, then from now onwards all those people travelling in vehicles will also meet the same fate. This will happen very shortly," Shira told Alva B. Sangma, editor of a Garo weekly Achik Songbad.
Meanwhile, Meghalaya Police has sounded a security alert in Garo Hills following the GNLA's threat, while the SWAT and CoBRA commandos continue combing operations to track down more rebels.
The GNLA, one of five Garo rebel groups fighting for a separate "Garoland" in western Meghalaya, is headed by police officer-turned-rogue Champion R. Sangma.
Sangma is presently lodged in Shillong jail after being arrested from the India-Bangladesh border last year.
Over 40 people, including security personnel, have been killed, and more than 10 people were abducted for ransom by GNLA in the last three years.