Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Maoists target security forces ahead of 1st phase of polls

Latehar/Sasaram (PTI): In attacks aimed at disrupting Thursday's first phase of Lok Sabha polls, Maoists on Wednesday targeted security personnel in Jharkhand and Bihar killing at least two persons, including a CRPF constable, and leaving seven others injured while suffering five casualties themselves.

In Latehar area of Jharkhand, about 125 km. from Ranchi, the Maoists triggered a landmine blast targeting an empty bus heading to a poll cluster for Thursday's polls in Naxal- affected Palamau constituency, killing the civilian driver.

Latehar falls under the Palamau seat.

Immediately after the blast, 80 CRPF constables, who had alighted from the bus fearing an attack on a road stretch on a sharp incline and were walking behind the vehicle, took positions and fired on the extremists, Inspector General of Police (Provision) S N Pradhan said.

CRPF constable Dharmendar Yadav and five Maoists were killed in the exchange of fire, he said. Six injured Maoists were taken away by the extremists. Six CRPF personnel were also injured in the gunfight.

Earlier on Wednesday, about 200 Maoists attacked a BSF camp of 70-odd men and officers in Bihar's Rohtas district, set up in connection with the polls, leaving a jawan injured, Superintendent of Police Vikas Vaibhav told PTI in Sasaram, around 200 km. from Patna.

About heavily armed guerrillas, who have called for a boycott of the Lok Sabha polls, surrounded the BSF camp near Rohtasgarh fort in Dhansa Valley at around 1.40 am and attacked it with rockets, Additional Director General of Police (HQ) Neelmani said in Patna.

The BSF personnel retaliated and engaged the ultras in an encounter that lasted over three and a half hours.

A BSF jawan, who suffered a leg injury, has been evacuated and shifted to Patna Medical College hospital where he is reported to be out of danger, Neelmani said.

IG (Operations) S K Bharadwaj said two IAF helicopters were assisting the forces in tracking down the retreating Naxals and airdropping security personnel.

Rohtas SP, Vikas Vaibhav is leading a team of central para-military forces, state police and a special task force in the forests around the scene of encounter.

Sources in the state police headquarters said there were signs of the wounded being dragged, indicating casualties on the part of the Naxalites, but no bodies had been found so far.

It was for the first time in the last 15 years or more that polling stations were set up at Budhuan and Dhansa close to Rohtasgarh fort to enable the electors to cast their votes and the BSF contingent was stationed close by to instill confidence among them.

On Tuesday night, the CRPF and the Maoists had exchanged gunfire at Ratnag village, also in Palamau district.

The police had launched a concerted move against the Naxalites following their call for boycott of elections and destroyed their training camp in the forest close to Nakti village under Rohtas police station limits a couple of days ago. Today's attack could be in retaliation for that, sources said.

On April 12, at least 11 CISF personnel were killed in a gunfight following a daring attack by Maoists on a well-guarded armoury and bauxite mine of public sector NALCO in Orissa's Koraput district. Four naxalites were killed in the encounter.

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