Five youths who were allegedly abducted by the People's Liberation Army (PLA) of China near the McMahon line in Arunachal Pradesh's Upper Subansiri were released on Saturday in Anjaw district, around 1,000 km away.
The youths -- Tanu Bakar, Prasad Ringling, Ngaru Diri, Dongtu Ebiya and Toch Singkam -- were handed over to the Indian Army by the PLA after completion of necessary formalities, Tezpur-based defence spokesperson Lieutenant Colonel Harsh Warrdhan Pande said.
"All five of them will now be placed under quarantine for 14 days as per COVID-19 protocols and thereafter be handed over to their family members," the spokesperson said.
Taking to Twitter, Chief Minister Pema Khandu thanked the Army and the Union government for securing their return.
'Absolutely glad to know that five of our Arunachali youths have been safely handed over to Indian Army by Chinese PLA. I am wholeheartedly thankful to the (Union) Govt and the Indian Army for their persistent effort in securing their return,' he posted on the microblogging site.
The development comes amid a prolonged border face-off between India and China in eastern Ladakh.
Five of seven youths, who went hunting on September 2, were allegedly whisked away by the Chinese troops from Sera-7, an Army patrol zone located around 12 km further north of Nacho in Upper Subansiri district.
The youths, engaged as porters by the Indian Army, were reported missing by their families on social media.
The defence spokesperson, in an official statement, said, 'Arunachal Pradesh is known for its rich natural heritage and adventurous people fond of exploring the nature for medicinal herbs and possessing traditional flair for hunting which involves surviving off the land for weeks in
jungles and far-flung remote areas.
'During such adventurous forays, at times youth have inadvertently strayed to the other side of the Line of Actual Control. All such individuals were brought back home safely following consistent efforts and coordination by the Army.'
In the latest instance, the Army had approached the PLA on the hotline to trace the youths, Lt Col Pande maintained.
Family members of the youths in Upper Subansiri, after learning about their release, extended gratitude to the Army and the officials of the Centre and the state government.
"The release was arranged in a matter of a few days. I can't thank the Army, government officials and the PLA enough for their cooperation and goodwill gesture," Reri Delak Bakar, the brother of Tanu Bakar, said.
Dasanglu Pul, who represents Hayulilang constituency in Anjaw, also said that it was a 'welcome move by China'.
Earlier in March, a 21-year-old man was abducted by the PLA from the Asapila sector near the McMahon line. His two friends, however, had managed to escape.
After 19 days in captivity, Togley Sinkam was released by the Chinese Army.