Most-wanted Garo National Liberation Army (GNLA) leader Savio Marak was killed in an early morning encounter today in the East Garo Hills.
Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) commandos of Meghalaya police led the counter-insurgency operation at Rengregre village, near Williamnagar, to hunt down Savio alias Daroka around 4.30am. The operation at Durama range began last night was based on intelligence inputs that Savio and his team were holed up in a makeshift camp.
Savio was gunned downed in an exchange of fire between GNLA and SWAT commandos for nearly 30 minutes. At least six GNLA cadres were present in the camp. However, taking advantage of the thick forest, the other rebels escaped.A pistol, four mobile handsets, incriminating documents and diaries were recovered from the hideout. A combing operation is on to hunt down the other cadres.Savio was the key man in the GNLA rank and file who gave out official statements from the outfit.
A former battalion constable with Meghalaya police, Savio, from Bolkingre village near Williamnagar, had joined the outfit in 2011. He left the police force while on law and order duty at Mendipathar in the North Garo Hills during the Garo-Rabha ethnic conflict.
“He (Savio) came under the influence of Rupanto Marak, who is his uncle and the deputy commander-in-chief of the GNLA. He deserted Meghalaya police and ran away with the official Insas rifle issued to him,” said G.H.P. Raju, inspector-general of police (operation), who lauded East Garo Hills police for the operation.
Across several police stations in Garo hills, over a dozen criminal cases had been lodged against Savio. In October 31, 2011, he had killed four policemen at Dobu in the East Garo Hills. In 2012, he had killed the village head of Daribokgre in the West Garo Hills in broad daylight.
“In 2013, Savio’s wife had asked him to surrender and he had contacted the police. However, his sister, mother and aunt forced him to continue with the GNLA for fear of retaliation from Sohan D. Shira. Since then, he never contacted any senior police official,” Raju said.
Shira is commander-in-chief of the outfit and is leading GNLA in the absence of its chairman, a former deputy superintendent of police, Champion Sangma, lodged in Shillong jail.
Between 2012 and 2013, Savio escaped from three operations in the West Garo Hills at Dadenggre, Sakalgre and Baladingre. “He was last spotted by the police at Daribokgre village in 2012. All his cadres were arrested and some got killed over the years at Dollongre and Gambegre villages,” a senior police officer said. “His command lasted for about a year in the West Garo Hills. In 2013, a lot of people in the district were served with extortion notes by Savio and his team,” the officer said. The top five GNLA members, who are at large, are Rupanto Marak, Baichung, Hedio, Piliport and Sohan D. Shira. “The killing of Savio is a big achievement for Meghalaya police,” the officer added.