Monday, April 06, 2009

Maoists' strike Simlipal again

6 Apr 2009, 0423 hrs IST, TNN

BARIPADA: Peace continued to elude Simlipal with suspected Maoists going on the rampage inside the premier tiger reserve for the third time in a
week on Saturday.

Forest officials said a group of armed men looted and ransacked a forest rest house and a tourist complex at Jamuani in the Simlipal Tiger Reserve's Manda Range around Saturday midnight.

The attack came exactly eight days after Maoists went on a rampage at Chahala by setting fire to a forest rest house and assaulting tourists and officials.

Earlier on Saturday, another group claiming themselves to be Maoists had raided the forest range office at Pithabata. The suspected rebels took away two logs and pasted pro-Maoist posters in and around the range office. The posters warned forest officials of dire consequences if they did not quit Simlipal. The attackers also burst crackers in a bid to create a fear psychosis among the unarmed officials.

The forest department, however, suspects that the latest attacks were the handiwork of local poachers and members of the timber mafia. "The attackers appear to be emboldened by the previous Maoist attacks in Simlipal. They are trying to take advantage of the situation," a forest department official said on condition of anonymity.

The attacks coming just before the tribals' annual hunting ritual on the occasion Pana Shankranti has left animal lovers and conservationists a worried lot. They said the tribals armed with bows and arrows and hunting axes enter the reserve through hidden paths and indulge in indiscriminate killing of the animals as part of their ritual of "akhand shikar" (mass hunting excursion).

Conservationists said poachers may take advantage of the Maoist attacks to indulge in intensified hunting on Pana Shankranti day.

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