Saturday, June 27, 2009

Forces Smash Double Ambush

28 Jun 2009, 0458 hrs IST, Arnab Ganguly, TNN

LALGARH: The red earth swirled 20 feet into the air when the bomb disposal squad moving along with forces from Lalgarh police station triggered a
controlled explosion of two IEDs planted in the fields on either side of the road between Amdanga and Pathardaga, two and a half kilometres from Lalgarh. The two IEDs weighed 12 kg together and the splinters were gathered from houses 600 metres away.

Five minutes later, at 12.05 pm on Saturday, security forces came under attack. Locally trained Maoists, taking shelter in some houses in the otherwise deserted Uparpara village in Pathardaga, fired at the forces from behind the bushes. The jawans counter-attacked with a massive volley. The firing from the other end stopped, only to begin a little later, leading to a full-fledged gunbattle.

As paramilitary jawans braved the bullets and raided the deserted houses, they spotted some women standing at a distance. Police suspect they are members of the Maoist woman squad operating in the area for last eight months. The women in front or the Maoist guerrillas behind them had no intention to engage in a battle with the highly skilled security forces. They opened fire only to stall the forces at Pathardaga for about 15 to 20 minutes so that they could retreat into the nearby forests. The women, it seems, formed the last tier of the Maoist strategy the first tier being the trees felled on the road, and the second the IEDs and Claymores planted close to the road.

While raiding Amdanga village on the way from Lalgarh, CRPF jawans came across Manoranjan Mal and his wife Jharna, who were busy thatching their house, unconcerned about the security forces, while their children Purnima and Lakshi played nearby. Mal's unconcern for the trouble all around made the forces suspicious. For, Mal was perhaps the only one who chose to stay with his children when all his neighbours had fled.

The jawans started questioning him and later beat him badly, taking him as a Maoist linkman. "I do not know why the forces picked up my husband and started beating him. We are in no way involved in any suspicious activity. We were busy with our domestic work," said Jharna.

Police are aware that Maoists sneak up on the road after a patrol party has left and plant landmines. Last week, an IED blast on a sanitized road near Pirakata had injured three policemen. On Saturday, the forces did not take any chances. While the assigned units marched towards Pathardaga, where the operation was called off for the day, paramilitary jawans were posted at a distance of 10 feet along the Jhitka forest route that the forces covered some days ago.

The movement from Lalgarh on Saturday was planned to give back-up support to the forces that marched from Goaltore. The plan was to take control of Ramgarh police station, some 18 km from Lalgarh, and crucial for conducting operations in Maoist-dominated villages such as Kantapahari and PCPA leader Chhatradhar Mahato's village Boro Pelia, where police fear a major resistance from the Maoists.

Taking control of Ramgarh police station was not an easy job given the scheme of the Maoists. They had anticipated a pincer move from Goaltore and Lalgarh and had felled trees on both routes to stall the march. The force from the Lalgarh end spotted the first obstacle the two IEDs after marching just 40 minutes. The road opening party, searching the road and fields with mine detectors, saw a wire lying across the road and leading to the fields. This wire connected two explosives a directional IED and a Claymore mine that the bomb disposal squad took care of. It indicated that the Maoists were somewhere close to Lalgarh police station that is now under the forces' control.

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