The rescued employees of ONGC

While two of his colleagues were rescued by security forces from Nagaland on Saturday, there’s no trace yet of Ritul Saikia, the third Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC) employee abducted by the United Liberation Front of Asom-Independent (ULFA-I) from Sivasagar in Assam on Wednesday, officials said

“I am not aware of the status of the third ONGC employee. I have been told that efforts are still underway to rescue him and security forces are looking for him. The other two who were rescued in Nagaland have returned to Assam,” Sivasagar superintendent of police, Amitabh Sinha, said.

Amid efforts to rescue him, the banned outfit issued a statement on Saturday that the three abducted ONGC employees had been released by ULFA-I and said Saikia could have been killed by army bullets or kept hidden somewhere by the government agencies.

The three employees, Ritul Saikia, Mohini Mohan Gogoi (both junior engineer assistants) and Alakesh Saikia (junior technician), all from Assam, were abducted from a workover rig site of ONGC inside the Lakwa tea estate.

According to the police, five armed persons came to the rig site in an ONGC ambulance and abducted the three employees at gunpoint. The ambulance was recovered later close to the Assam-Nagaland border, around 11 kilometres away, leading to suspicion that the abducted persons could be in Nagaland.

On Saturday, Alakesh Saikia and Mohini Mohan Gogou were rescued from near the India-Myanmar border in Mon district of Nagaland. The operation was carried out jointly by personnel from the Indian Army, the Assam Rifles and Nagaland Police with help of inputs provided by Assam Police.

“On Friday night, nearly 500 security personnel from Indian Army, Assam Rifles and Nagaland Police tried to rescue the three ONGC employees we had taken into custody on April 20. As a result, an encounter took place between both sides from nearly 10 pm to 2.30 am,” said the ULFA-I statement released on Saturday.

The statement added that keeping safety of the three employees in mind, ULFA-I cadres released them at Tokko Singkhu village of Mon in Nagaland in a healthy condition and proceeded to their destination. It alleged that though the security forces were aware of it, they resorted to firing at the spot moments after ULFA-I cadres left the area.

“News reports say that two officials, Mohini Mohan Gogoi and Alakesh Saikia, were rescued from the village by Nagaland Police. But Indian Army has not released any information on Ritul Saikia. That’s why we suspect that Ritul Sakia may have been killed in firing by the Indian Army or army-police may have kept him hidden,” the ULFA-I statement read.