Less than 48 hours after killing seven persons in Assam, suspected Garo National Liberation Army (GNLA) members gunned down five police officials in an ambush in Meghalaya's South Garo Hills district on Tuesday.
Around 10 militants of the outlawed GNLA attacked a police vehicle around 11am. All five on board were killed on the spot, a senior police official said.
The militants first set off an explosion and then riddled the vehicle with bullets before taking away three AK-47 rifles and a carbine the police officials were carrying.
The Meghalaya government hinted at carrying out a counter-attack across GNLA strongholds. "We are monitoring the situation. The perpetrators of the crime will be dealt with strongly," state home minister Roshan Warjiri said.
On Sunday night, suspected GNLA rebels had struck in Goalpara district of Assam, which borders Meghalaya's Garo Hills.
The attack claimed seven lives and was linked to the Rabha Hasong Autonomous Council (in Assam) elections scheduled in three phases between November 13 and 25.
All the victims were Rabha tribals for whom the council was created in 1995. Garo tribals, who have a sizeable presence in the Rabha council areas, and other non-Rabhas are opposed to the polls.
Tuesday's ambush, however, is said to be in retaliation to the counter-insurgency operations against GNLA. The Meghalaya Police had last week raided the house of the outfit's commander, Sohan D Shira, in Williamnagar town and arrested his brother-in-law.
The GNLA is one of many Garo tribal outfits in western Meghalaya, demanding either a sovereign Garoland or a separate state for the Garos.
The other outfits include the Achik National Volunteer Council, now in ceasefire mode, the Liberation of Achik Elite Force, the People's Liberation Front of Meghalaya, the Atong Liberation Army and the United Achik Liberation Army.