Armed militants abduct 3 ONGC employees from rig site in Assam

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Guwahati/New Delhi, Apr 21 (PTI) Five armed militants early on Wednesday abducted three employees of state-owned Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC) from a rig site in Assam using a company vehicle driven by a driver employed by the firm.

The militants, suspected to be belonging to the banned ULFA(I) group, later abandoned the vehicle and its driver near Nimonagarh jungle close to the Assam-Nagaland border, a company official said.

At about 1.30 am on Wednesday, five armed militants raided the company's remote rig site under the Lakwa oilfield in Sivasagar district of Assam. They first locked the two security guards posted at the site before bundling the three young employees into the company's emergency-cum-medical vehicle stationed at the rig site to drive away.

The official said the company has filed a complaint with the local police and beefed up security at installations in Assam.

No gunshot was fired during the abduction. 'We don't know how the entire episode unfolded. The police are looking into it,' he said.

Local and central control rooms have been activated to coordinate with the police to get the employees released.

'A high-level review of security of employees and their families has been held and we are taking additional measures,' the official said, refusing to elaborate on steps being taken. 'We are also taking help from local police.' ONGC has around 2,000 employees, officers and support staff in the Sivasagar asset.

Whereabouts of the kidnapped employees weren't known and kidnappers haven't made any contact with family or the company so far, the ONGC official said.

'The abducted employees were taken by the miscreants in an operational vehicle belonging to ONGC. Later, the vehicle was found abandoned near the Nimonagarh jungles, close to the Assam-Nagaland border,' the company said in a statement, adding it was a medical emergency response vehicle stationed at the site.

Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal said an investigation into the kidnapping is underway.

'Strongly condemn the abduction of ONGC employees Shri Mohini Mohan Gogoi, Shri Alakesh Saikia and Shri Ritul Saikia,' he tweeted. 'I have asked CS Shri Jishnu Barua and @DGPAssamPolice Shri Bhaskarjyoti Mahanta to take all possible measures for their release.' He said, 'Special DGP, L&O Shri @gpsinghassam is at Lakuwa and investigation regarding the abduction is underway'.

A senior official of Sivasagar District Administration said suspected ULFA(I) militants are behind this kidnap and they escaped through Nagaland.

'These are very preliminary findings. We can talk about it after some investigation,' he added.

No demand for ransom or any other form of contact has been received so far from anybody.

ONGC said a complaint has already been lodged with the local police and higher officials have reached the site.

'Local administration has been informed about the incident and ONGC is in constant touch with the higher authorities,' it added.

A senior official at the Assam Police Headquarter told PTI that five militants reached the rig site at around 1:30 am and asked the three employees to accompany them.

'They also asked the ambulance driver to take them. The vehicle moved through various tea gardens of the area and reached the hills along the Assam-Nagaland border. There the militants got down from the vehicle and asked the driver to return,' he added.

Out of the five militants, three were seen carrying sophisticated weapons as per the driver and all of them were speaking in the Assamese language, thereby creating the suspicion that they were from the ULFA(I), the police official said.

'We have alerted the Nagaland Police and all other security agencies. The Unified Command of security forces has also been intimated. All agencies are working to find the whereabouts of the three employees,' he added.

Earlier during the first week of April, drilling superintendent Pranab Kumar Gogoi and radio operator Ram Kumar of the Quippo Oil and Gas Infrastructure were released by ULFA(I) after three-and-half months of their kidnap on December 21 last year.

The duo were kidnapped from Kumchaikha hydrocarbon drilling site in Changlang district of Arunachal Pradesh with a demand for ransom of Rs 20 crore.

'3 ONGC employees, 2 Junior Engineer Assistants (Production) & a Junior Technician (Production) have been abducted by unknown armed miscreants in the early hours of 21 April 2021. The abduction took place on a rig site of ONGC in Lakwa field of Sivasagar District,' the company said.

All three employees are local Assamese. They have been identified as M M Gogoi and Ritul Saikia -- both junior engineer assistants (production) -- and Alakesh Saikia, a junior technician (production).

The official said all the three were young employees, hailing from Dibrugarh and Jorhat.

ONGC has been exploring and producing oil and gas in Upper Assam since the early 1960s.

'Higher officials of the State Police are on the site. The local administration has been informed about the incident and ONGC is in constant touch with the higher authorities,' it added.

The official said ONGC has made contact with the families of the abducted and providing every possible assistance. PTI TR ANZ BAL BAL