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Shillong, May 4: The outlawed Garo tiol Liberation Army (GNLA) on Wednesday suffered another setback as 16 cadres, including an area commander and two deputy area commanders, surrendered to Meghalaya police along with a huge cache of arms and ammunition.
A police spokesman said among the top GNLA rebels who laid down their arms is Philiport D. Shira, the area commander of the outfit's northern command - the outfit's most potent fighting unit.
"There have been serious interl conflicts within the GNLA after Sohan D. Shira, the military wing chief, refused to share extortion money with various commands," Philiport told reporters.
"The other reason for the entire command to surrender to the authorities was pressure from the general public in the wake of counter-insurgency operations in Garo Hills," he said. Philiport led the group to Shillong from their hideouts in Garo Hills and surrendered before Home minister Roshan Warjri and Director General of Police Rajiv Mehta in the presence of senior police officials at the state's police headquarters here.
Among those who surrendered were Anurag Sangma alias Mike Aubry, the outfit's spokesman and Serejing alias Kediang N. Sangma.
Interestingly, two of the surrendered cadres - Oprai Asom alias Horith Rabha (29) and Sengbarth K Marak (30) claimed to be members of the ULFA(I).
GNLA publicity secretary Anurag S Sangma said they surrendered because the government did not respond to their demand for ceasefire. Anurag also said that the cadres were disillusioned with the outfit's top brass since it has no clear objective and no advice for the cadres.
"There has been no contact with Sohan D Shira, the GNLA chief, for the last several months," he said.
The rebels also deposited a huge cache of weapons including four AK and one INSAS rifles, six pistols, one carbine, a grede, 484 rounds of ammunition, four handsets, incrimiting documents and 19 illegal SIM cards.
"This is the largest surrender of GNLA cadres after we launched Operation Hill Storm-3 against the outfit in the five districts of Garo Hills. The en-masse surrender by GNLA's northern command indicates that the outfit is losing support base within its ranks and growing frustration, prompting them to lay down arms," Inspector General of Police in-charge Operations, GHP Raju said. This is the second major surrender by GNLA rebels in the last six days. The GNLA, which claims to be fighting for a separate 'Garoland' in western Meghalaya, is headed by police officer-turned-rebel Champion R. Sangma, who is lodged in Shillong jail after his arrest near the India-Bangladesh border in 2012.