"NLFT (National Liberation Front of Tripura) extremists on Friday evening abducted 16 construction workers from Rajivnagar village along Tripura-Mizoram border. Later, the rebels released five people," a Tripura police officer said.

He  said all the 16 people - Bengali Muslims and Chakma tribals - were residents of southern Assam's Karimganj district.

They went to Rajivnagar village under Mamit district in Mizoram through Tripura's Kanchanpur area as construction workers.

Police suspect that abductors might have taken these people to Bangladesh.

"The NLFT rebels might have taken the hostages to Bangladesh as the place is just a few kilometre away from the India-Bangladesh border. Senior police officials have asked the Border Security Force to hold a flag meeting with the BGB (Border Guard Bangladesh) to rescue the hostages," the official said.

The security forces of Tripura and Mizoram have jointly launched a search operation to rescue the captives and to nab the militants.

On June 14, three Tripura traders and their driver were kidnapped by NLFT guerrillas from the same area of Mizoram. However, they were subsequently freed by the rebels.

After the erection of fencing and strengthening the security along the India-Bangladesh boundary with Tripura, the NLFT extremists use Mizoram as corridor for their cross border activities.

The NLFT guerrillas, with their base in Bangladesh, have been kidnapping people in Tripura and Mizoram to collect ransom.

Mizoram has unfenced and porous international border of 404 km with Myanmar and 318 km with Bangladesh.

Tripura also shares 856-km-long border with Bangladesh and some parts of the border areas are still unfenced. Tripura shares 109 km borders with Mizoram and 53 km borders with Assam.

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