Monday, March 30, 2009

Maoists blow up beat houses

Bhubaneswar, March 29: Maoists blew up two forest beat houses and attacked a range office in the Simplipal reserve forest area of Mayurbhanj district early this morning.

This is the first such attack on a tourist destination in Orissa, though no casualty has been reported.

According to a police source, more than a dozen rebels swooped on the Barahakamuda beat house around 1am. They used explosives, possibly crude bombs and landmines, to blow up the building. The group’s second target was the Dhudruchampa beat house, some 10km from Barahakamuda.

After the twin blasts, the rebels gheraoed the Chahala range office, another few kilometres away. They ransacked the building and torched three forest department vehicles, including a jeep. The entire operation, police said, was completed in three hours.

Talking to The Telegraph, Mayurbhanj superintendent of police P.K. Ranpise said that while Barahakamuda and Dhudruchampa beat houses remained inaccessible for tourists because of their remote locations, Chahala was frequented by adventure-seekers and often doubled up as a guesthouse. “Though there has been no casualty, we cannot overlook the fact that a tourist destination has been attacked. It is an issue of serious concern,” he said.

Since the beat offices are located in remote pockets of Simplipal, police could not confirm whether anyone was injured in the attacks. “We do not know whether any forest official — or for that matter tourist — has suffered any injury. A police team has left for the blast sites and we are awaiting details,” the SP said.

Police said it would take some time to reach the spot. “Our team is finding it hard to negotiate the terrain, particularly when they know that Maoists may have planted landmines,” said Jashipur inspector-in-charge Ranjit Sahu.

Last night, suspected Maoists shot the zilla parishad president of Malkangiri, Nanda Kumar Kartami, near Sikhpalli village. Police are yet to confirm whether the leader, who recently resigned from the BJP, was a victim of political rivalry or Maoist attack.

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