Assam, May 20: Responding to the appeal made by Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma banned outfit United Liberation Front of Asom Independent (ULFA-I) announced that it will release Ritul Saikia, an employee of Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC) within the next four days.

Ritul Saikia was abducted from Assam’s Sivasagar district last month. Himanta Biswa Sarma appealed to the outfit and its chief Paresh Baruah to release the abducted ONGC employee.

Ritul Saikia’s parents, his wife and newborn child are very distressed since his abduction. As an Assamese, it is my humble request to ULFA-I and Paresh Baruah to release him on the grounds of humanity,” the chief minister said while he was addressing a press conference held in Guwahati.

Recently, Himanta Biswa Sarma met the family members of Ritul Saikia. Soon after the appeal by the Assam Chief Minister, the ULFA-I chief told a local TV channel over the phone that the outfit will release Ritul Saikia, and it may take three to four days for him to reunite with his family.

Ritul Saikia and two other employees of ONGC were abducted by ULFA-I militants in the early morning hours of April 21 from a rig site in Lakuwa field in the Sivasagar district.

On April 24, the Indian Army and Assam Rifles had safely rescued the two abducted ONGC employees during an operation launched in the general area of Mon district in Nagaland along the Assam-Nagaland border.

The rescued ONGC employees were identified as Alakesh Saikia and Mohini Mohan Gogoi. Security personnel had also recovered one AK-47 rifle from the area.

On May 18, Paresh Baruah had confirmed that another abducted ONGC employee Ritual Saikia was in ULFA-I’s custody and was safe.

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On the other hand, Himanta Biswa Sarma said that the government will welcome the ULFA-I if it would come forward for peace talks.

I am waiting for a further statement from Paresh Baruah whether this ceasefire is to facilitate a discussion between the central government and ULFA-I. If that statement will come and Paresh Baruah informs us that yes my ceasefire is to basically prepare a ground for further discussion, then we will respond to it appropriately. But, as of now, he has said that this is a goodwill gesture for the new government as well in view of the COVID-19 pandemic. This is just a preliminary statement of intent,” the chief minister said.

Last week, Paresh Baruah had announced that in view of the COVID-19 induced situation, ULFA-I decided to suspend its all military operations for the next three months unilaterally with effect from May 15.