An Indian rebel group has threatened to kill one of two oilfield workers it abducted in December if a large ransom is not paid by 16 February.
The outlawed United Liberation Front of Asom Independent (ULFA (I)) has reportedly demanded a ransom of 200 million rupees (US$2.74 million) for the release of 35-year old radio operator Ram Kumar.
Kumar is one of two workers kidnapped from Oil India Limited (OIL)'s Kumchaikha well site in Changlang district in Arunachal Pradesh.
The two are employees of New Delhi-based Quippo Oil & Gas Infrastructure, which is OIL’s drilling contractor.
Paresh Baruah of the ULFA (I) has reportedly asked Quippo to pay 200 million rupees for Kumar’s release.
However, the extremist leader said the money demanded was not a ransom but compensation for the exploitation of Assam’s natural resources, according to The Hindu.
In a statement on Wednesday, the ULFA (I) confirmed it was still holding Bihar native Kumar captive.
“While the oil firm appears to have made no effort to secure his release, the Indian occupational forces have intensified their operations,” it said.
“This is a reminder to Quippo Oil to ensure the release of its employee by 16 February. If it fails to, appropriate action would be taken against its Indian employee Ram Kumar.”
However, the ULFA (I) said it would not harm his colleague, 51-year old drilling superintendent Pranab Kumar Gogoi, who is Assamese.
Security forces, including the police of Assam and Arunachal Pradesh states, are trying to locate and rescue the two, who were abducted by armed militants on 21 December.
The two, who are being held in an unknown location in Myanmar, have been shown in videos pleading for their lives, reported India’s NDTV.
A video message released by the ULFA (I) showed the two workers appealing to their respective state chief ministers — Nitish Kumar of Bihar and Assam's Sarbananda Sonowal — to step up efforts to have them safely released.
In the video, Kumar and Gogoi claimed that they had been abducted by ULFA (I) and the Isak-Muivah faction of the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN-IM).
“Even after a month of our abduction, our company hasn’t initiated any measures to secure our release,” Gogoi was quoted by the Hindustan Times.
“I request the company to talk to both ULFA (I) and NSCN-IM for my release. I appeal to Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal to save the life of a fellow Assamese,” he said in Assamese.
Local media report that oilfield operations in the Kumchaikha area have all but ground to a halt after some Quippo workers fled the area in the wake of the kidnappings.