Senior manager of IOC, two drivers and a cleaner kidnapped

All oil stations have been closed down and the distribution of cooking gas has been suspended in Manipur following the kidnapping of a senior manager of the Indian Oil Corporation (IOC), two drivers and a cleaner for ransom.

Police in Manipur and Assam have been unable to rescue these kidnapped persons so far.

Oil stations were shut on Saturday morning when it was learnt that K. Ibobi, senior manager and the State-level coodinator of the IOC, had been kidnapped by armed tribal extremists while on his way home.

His abandoned private car was found by the police. His whereabouts are so far unknown. On the basis of extortion letters for illegal taxes, police suspect the involvement of a tribal extremist outfit. Reports say that some IOC officials had received telephonic instructions to pay a ransom of Rs.1 crore for the safe release of Mr. Ibobi.

Work at the LPG bottling plant at Sekmai was suspended and the distribution of cooking gas stopped in protest against the kidnapping of the drivers and cleaner, allegedly by militants of the newly formed Karbi People's Liberation Tigers (KPLT) from Golaghat district of Assam.

The militants of this outfit, which was formed earlier this month, had ambushed a tanker transporting LPG. A ransom of Rs.50 lakh was demanded from the IOC. When IOC officials replied saying that they did not have that kind of money, it was reduced to Rs.10 lakh. In protest against the kidnapping, other drivers have stopped transporting LPG, creating an acute fuel shortage in Manipur.

Security stationed

Though security escorts have been stationed along the Highway 39 in Nagaland and Manipur, no such security arrangements have been made in Assam as almost all extremist outfits in the Stat are engaged in the peace process.

Official sources said that the police had launched a manhunt to rescue the kidnapped IOC manager. Manipur Chief Minister Okram Ibobi Singh is in touch with his Assamese counterpart, Tarun Gogoi.

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