In a major setback to the Garo National Liberation Army (GNLA), its top leader Champion R Sangma has been detained in Bangladesh and is likely to be handed over to India soon, a police official on Thursday.
Champion, who claims to be fighting for a separate Garoland, has been camping in Bangladesh for several months in search of support.
"We have confirmed from the central intelligence agencies that Champion has been arrested from Mymensingh district (Bangladesh) by Royal Action Bangladesh (RAB) commandos," a top Meghalaya police official, who did not wish to be named, told IANS.
He said the rebel leader will be handed over to India soon.
However, an Indian home ministry official said that New Delhi does not have any official confirmation of Champion's detention.
"We are yet to get any official confirmation," Shambhu Singh, joint secretary (Northeast) in the union home ministry, told IANS.
Champion, a former deputy superintendent of police, deserted the Meghalaya Police and floated the GNLA due to alleged harassment by his seniors.
The outfit which has also forged an alliance with the Bangladesh-based rebel group, A'chik Special Dragon Party has unleashed a reign of terror in the three impoverished districts of Garo Hills in the western part of Meghalaya.
Meghalaya shares a 443-km border with Bangladesh, part of which is porous, hilly and unfenced and prone to frequent infiltration.
It has forged an operational alliance with the United Liberation Front of Asom (Ulfa) and the National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB).
Both the Assam-based rebel groups have transformed the GNLA into a violent group with access to sophisticated arms and ammunitions.
Over 20 people, including security personnel, have been killed in the Garo Hills in the last one year by GNLA rebels.
On Monday evening, four police personnel and a civilian were killed and two policemen were critically injured by the rebels at Nengpatchi in East Garo Hills district.
On Monday, heavily armed GNLA rebels abducted Block Development Officer (BDO) PK Boro and two traders Dulal Modak and Rokybul Haque from two areas of Meghalaya's West Garo Hills district. The whereabouts are still unknown.
Boro was abducted at gunpoint from his official chamber in Dadenggre while the traders were kidnapped from Kalchengpara weekly market.
The GNLA has over 100 rebels, including a few women cadres, operating in the three impoverished districts. The outfit has procured a cache of HK53 rifles and explosives to add to their arsenal.