Updated: January 31, 2022 6:59:16 pm
The outlawed Hynniewtrep National Liberation Council (HNLC) is responsible for the low-intensity IED blast that went off in the heart of Shillong on Sunday evening, authorities said. The HNLC, too, claimed responsibility for the attack through a statement issued on Monday.
In a press release, the Meghalaya police Monday said that one person, who claimed to be part of the banned separatist outfit, had been arrested in connection with the incident.
At 6.39 pm on Sunday, an IED was detonated at the entrance of the famous Centre Point building in Shillong’s commercial hub, Police Bazar (Khyndailad). While no casualties were reported, the blast damaged the wall, windowpanes and signage of the shops located in the building.
Following the blast, Crime Scene Unit and a bomb squad were dispatched to the site. A case was registered in Shillong’s Sadar police station. Within a few hours, one person was apprehended.
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“During the course of enquiry, he admitted his involvement and claimed himself to be the Area Commander of Shillong region of the banned outfit-Hynniewtrep National Liberation Council (HNLC). On his leading, a crude IED was recovered from the residence of his relatives,” said a press release signed by Sylvester Nongtnger, SP, East Khasi Hills. The bomb was “diffused and duly seized in the presence of independent witnesses”, the statement added.
According to a statement signed by the HNLC general secretary-cum-publicity secretary, Saiñkupar Nongtraw, the motive behind the blast was to “warn non indigenous traders at Khyndailad to pay taxes.” The group claimed that some traders had refused to pay ‘taxes’ to the HNLC, and warned them to pay heed to their diktat.
The outfit also referred to the death of Cherishterfield Thangkhiew, a former member of the HNLC, as a reason for the blast. It said that the government had “committed a mistake” by taking the life of Thangkhiew in August last year. “He is no more but we will repay with blood for blood. Those who were involved in killing him will not get away from the HNLC — be it ministers or police officers,” the statement said.
Thangkhiew, who had “retired” from the outfit, was the founding general secretary of the HNLC, and had died in a police operation in August last year. While the police claimed he was killed in “retaliatory firing”, his family described the killing as “cold-blooded murder” and a “fake encounter”.
Following his death, there was a breakdown of law and order on August 15, 2021 in Shillong. Stone pelting, vandalism and arson rocked the town, and in a particularly grim incident, masked miscreants took hold of a police vehicle, snatching arms from policemen, and parading it around the city. Internet services were blocked for 72 hours in four districts and central forces were deployed.
The HNLC, which demands a sovereign Khasi homeland in Meghalaya, is a breakaway faction of the Hynniewtrep Achik Liberation Council (HALC), the first militant tribal outfit of the state.
While it has not been very active in the last few years, in the early 2000s, the HNLC would frequently issue call for bandhs, boycott Independence Day celebrations and carry out extortion. The group has claimed responsibility for three blasts since August.
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