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[By S Singlianmang Guite, The Sangai Express]

TUITHRAPHAI, July 6, 2009: The Assam Rifles here was accused of harbouring an armed group, which is engaged in extortion from locals. The matter came to light after the victims disclosed it to the media today.

Laltlangmawi Inbuon, a resident of Sielmat village revealed that an armed group, Sinlung Peoples Liberation Army (SPLA), which is however not a signatory group of SoO served him a ransom of Rs 2 lakhs on July 1 at 6:33 pm from a mobile number identified as 961552088 .

The following day at 11:45 am and 12:05 am another set of SMSs were received by him that ordered him to drop the demanded amount at a location they would later disclose.

At 8:30 pm, Laltlangmawi added, he got another call from the same number with the caller identified himself as one Jacob L Hmar, General Secretary SPLA.

Laltlangmawi added that he to avoid them saying that he had no money.

On July 3, at around 5 pm, another call was routed to Laltlangmawi again questioning whether he would comply to their demands or not.

A little later at around 9:15 pm, stones were pelted at his roof with calls someone insisting him to step outside.

"Do you know who I am, come out," Laltlangmawi quoted while saying that the miscreants fired two rounds of gunshots and retreated.

The assailants called him at 11:15 pm asking him whether he heard the gunshots, and threatening him of a more serious action in the next instances, if he failed to fulfil their demands as their shots that night were just a warning.

Laltlangmawi went on claiming that a village chief whom he produced before the media today but requested for anonymity also received extortion threats from the same number.

The elderly village chief then told the media that he paid the SPLA an amount of Rs 10,000 out of the Rs 15,000 they demanded from him on Saturday.

The chief along with another elderly man who accompanied him that day claimed that they were instructed to hand over the money at the District Hospital campus, exactly at the same place Laltlangmawi was told to do so by Jacob L Hmar.

However, on arriving at the scene, they were told to meet them at 3 AR (NH) headquarters at Hqtrs Veng.

The duo called up the number they usually received demand calls as they were denied entry.

The man at the other end told them that he had sent three of his men to pick them up.

The three youths who approached them from inside the AR hqtrs too failed to secure their entry at the gate and at this point the man on the phone personally approached them from inside and received the cash, the chief and his companion recounted.

The chief went on record that he received another call yesterday from the same person who collected money from him with a different mobile number, saying the previous number belonged to his friend and the number he used that days was his.

He still has the new number as well.

As the two cases of ransom were served from the same number and the same pattern of delivery was directed, Laltlangmawi and his family who addressed the media today questioned how and why the Assam Rifles was connected to the groups that terrorised them and served them extortion threats.

The SPLA, according to sources, is often referred to themselves as 'Sinlung Tigers' with bases and a political movement directed towards Mizoram.

AR authority on the other hand said that they are investigating the case, and claimed that some people are behind the entire episode who try to give bad name to SPLA.

It further said that the entire truth would be revealed in few days.

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