Friday, June 12, 2009

8 jawans blown up in ‘safe’ vehicle

8 jawans blown up in ‘safe’ vehicle
- Maoists take Insas rifles, kill cops
SHASHANK SHEKHAR


The landmine-protected vehicle after the blast in Sarubera forest on Friday. Picture by Pankaj Singh

Bokaro, June 12: Within 48 hours of the Goelkera encounter, CPI(Maoist) rebels today killed 10 more security personnel — eight of them Special Task Force (STF) jawans in a landmine-protected vehicle — at Bermo and Nawadih in Bokaro district.

About 50 armed rebels, including several women and reportedly led by wanted Naxalite leader Navin Manjhi, swooped on State Bank of India’s Phusro Bazaar branch in Bermo, 32km from here, around 1.15pm, minutes after Rs 1 crore was deposited in the DVC account.

They split into groups. One attacked a policeman guarding the bank, snatched away his Insas rifle and tried to enter the bank. Seeing colleague Bandhu Oraon in trouble, another policeman, Raju Lohra, rushed to help, but was shot dead.

A second group of Maoists triggered an improvised explosive device (IED) near a four-wheeler as other policemen retaliated. They attacked constable Prabhunath Toppo, pumped in bullets and snatched away his rifle. Three more rifles were picked up from a police vehicle after which the rebels disappeared into a forested area in Nawadih, 17km from Phusro.

An SOS from the police in Bermo prompted an STF team of 13 jawans, led by Nawadih officer-in-charge Ramji Mahto, to set out for Phusro around 2pm.

Their landmine-protected vehicle had barely reached the dense Sarubera forest, 5km from Nawadih, when a powerful landmine blast was triggered by the Maoists. The impact was so severe that the heavily armoured vehicle was ripped apart and parts flung up to 20ft away. Eight STF jawans were killed.

On why a landmine-protected vehicle could not withstand the impact, DGP V.D. Ram said the matter was being probed.

A source, unwilling to be named, claimed the vehicle had developed technical snag even before the mission.

After the blast, the rebels engaged security personnel in a 30-minute encounter before disappearing into the forests. Police claimed a Maoist was injured in the gun battle.

DIG (coal belt) Prashant Singh said it was not immediately clear whether the rebels who triggered the blast were members of the same group who attacked the bank. “We are probing the matter,” he said, adding that Maoists would be given a fitting reply.

The deceased STF jawans have been identified as Amrendra Kumar Lakra, Chandan Singh, Bhushan Tirkey, Jubel Kujur, Teopila Lakra, Ramakant Sharma, Baldeo Singh and Shiv Kumar Bhagat. Police said more than 12 people, including some civilians in Phusro, were injured in the two incidents.

On Wednesday, nine policemen and a CRPF officer were killed when the CPI(Maoist) triggered a blast at Goelkera in the Saranda forest area of West Singhbhum, considered a rebel stronghold

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