Police have not made any breakthrough in the operation to rescue the two engineers and three others by suspected militants on Thursday evening from the bridge at Pukhao while they were returning to Imphal after visiting the Dollaithabi barrage. This project is under the Irrigation and Flood Control department. Talking to journalists on Friday night Home Minister Gaikhangam Gangmei appealed to the kidnappers to set free these five abducted persons.

He disclosed that the abducted persons are Karunacharya N, Surchandra N, both engineers of the department, Debajit Sinha and Abhijit Sinha, representatives of a construction company in Kolkata and a local contractor Sanayaima Sharma. There has been no claim or ransom demand from the militants. This has made the police rescue work more difficult. Almost all the tribal militant groups had signed ceasefire and suspension of operations with the Union government.

The ground rules say that these signatories cannot indulge in, inter alia, kidnappings for extracting ransom. Mr. Gangmei appealed to the kidnappers to set them free since they are working for the general welfare of the people of the state. He also disclosed that he had instructed police to take up appropriate actions to rescue the kidnapped persons. It is made out that if the two representatives of the Kolkata company had informed police in time perhaps they would not have been kidnapped. This has caused a little confusion since there is no system of providing armed guards to visiting company officials from other parts of the country.

Kidnapping officials and representatives of private companies has been a thriving business for some armed groups. Some time back, a German official who had come to Imphal to inspect the project undertaken with German funding was kidnapped. Miltants reportedly demanded Rs. 10 crore as ransom. Subsequently, the German ambassador to India rushed to Imphal. Cards were played close to chest. However the abducted German national was released shortly. Police sources said that search operations are continuing in all suspected areas to locate the kidnapped persons.