Monday, June 22, 2009

Maoists blow up anti-landmine vehicle as 48-hr bandh begins

22 Jun 2009, 1135 hrs IST, PTI



KOLKATA: Maoists on Monday targeted an anti-landmine vehicle in Jharkhand as a 48-hour strike called by them began in five states, where security
has been put on high alert.

The vehicle was on its way to Ghatshila in East Singhbhum district bordering West Bengal when Maoists set off a landmine. Police said the vehicle was not damaged and there were no reports of any casualty.

The bandh has been called by the Maoists in West Bengal, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Orissa in protest against security forces storming Lalgarh in West Midnapore district of West Bengal.

In Malkangiri in Orissa, two Maoists were gunned down in a fierce battle with police, district police chief Satyabrat Bhoi said.

The gun battle took place when a team of police and jawans of the elite Special Operation Group (SOG) were conducting a combing operation in a forest area and the ultras opened fire from their hide-out, he said.

The operation had been launched after three Maoists opened fire during a checking by the police here last night and escaped into the forest. No one was injured in the incident.

In the restive Lalgarh in West Midnapore district, which was reclaimed by the security forces on Saturday, CRPF, BSF and West Bengal police personnel intensified their operations.

Reports said normal life was affected in the Maoist-hit West Midnapore, Purulia and Bankura districts as shops and business establishments remained closed.

Besides Lalgarh -- the epicentre of the current trouble -- security was tightened in Binpur, Jhargram and adjoining areas where state and paramilitary security forces continued their offensive for the fifth day, officials said. Patrolling by security forces has been intensified.

In Purulia district, train services remained suspended on the Purulia-Chandil section since 0200 hrs in view of reports of a landmine being planted on the tracks at Birandi station.

Police said two railway gangmen, who noticed a landmine tied to the tracks, were attacked by suspected Maoists who snatched their mobile phones. Railway authorities immediately informed the bomb squad department in Kolkata to defuse the explosive.

In Bihar, life was normal except in Sherghati sub-division of Naxal-infested Gaya district bordering Jharkhand. Shops in Sherghati were closed and traffic was thin.

A report from Patna said there was normalcy in Jahanabad, Jamui, Nawada, Nalanda and Arwal, where Maoists have a sizeable presence.

On the eve of the bandh, Orissa witnessed some violence as two Maoists were killed in an exchange of fire in Malkangiri district. However, there was no report of any untoward incident during the first few hours of the bandh.

Sources said security has been beefed up at all important locations and a strict vigil is being kept on the border areas, particularly on Jharkhand-West Bengal border to prevent Naxals from escaping after carrying out subversive activities.

The government has asked security personnel to remain vigilant against IEDs and landmines which have been often used to target them.

Describing the situation in Lalgarh area as "sensitive and tense", the Union Home Ministry has warned of possible "demonstrative acts of violence" by Naxals during the bandh.

In a statement, Union Home Minister P Chidambaram asked politicians, people and Non-Governmental Organisations to remain away from conflict area and directed security forces to carry on with their work without distraction.

Based on intelligence inputs, the Naxal Division in the Home Ministry has alerted these states that the CPI (Maoist) may indulge in demonstrative acts of violence by targeting security forces and economic infrastructure such as trains, buses, railway and bus stations and other places where people are likely to gather in significant numbers.

The inputs have been shared with the states who have been asked to take "precautionary and pre-emptive measures", according to Additional Secretary (Naxal Management) in Home Ministry D R S Chaudhary.

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