Monday, November 16, 2009

Arrests in Patna for Maoist arms sale

NALIN VERMA

Patna, Nov. 15: Police probing a seizure of 3,600kg of suspected explosives in Gaya last week have arrested a Patna transporter, his wife and three associates for allegedly supplying arms to Maoists.

Six bags of explosives, foreign pistols and rifles, and Naxalite literature were found during a raid on the home of Subodh Singh in an upscale area of the city last night.

The swoop came on a day forensic experts confirmed that the powdery substance unearthed in Gaya on Thursday was indeed an explosive, though the police didn’t specify the nature of the chemicals.

But special superintendent of police Vineet Vinayak said the explosives found in Singhs’ home were similar to those found in Gaya, a “liberated zone” of Maoists that neighbours Jharkhand, where elections will begin later this month.

The hauls in Gaya and Patna in Bihar and Bokaro in Jharkhand, all of them within the last one week, have fuelled fears that the rebel-hit areas of the country have become a big market for international arms smugglers.

Pointers to that emerged in Subodh’s interrogation. Over 250 cartridges made in China and Pakistan were found concealed under the seat of an Ambassador seized from his transport agency. Officials interrogating Subodh and the others said the rebels had many “contacts” in Patna, Gaya and Jharkhand who masqueraded as “white-collar traders and professionals”. These people, they added, were “conduits” in the supply of arms from smugglers to the guerrillas.

The officers believe the Ambassador and another five more vehicles seized from Singh’s agency were used to transport arms and explosives to the Naxalities in Jharkhand and Bihar.

Central intelligence agencies have long sounded the police in the rebel-infested states on the Maoists getting arms from international smugglers. Some of the arms were coming from China through the frontier in the Northeast and through the more than 750km of the porous Nepal border.

Last week, Union Home secretary G.K. Pillai had spoken about the possibility of the Maoists getting small arms from China.

Some of the seizures in Patna, Gaya and Bokaro in the past week have thrown up Chinese hand-grenades that look like “peeled coconuts”. The cops say these are a “hot favourite” with the guerrillas.

The Maoists were also said to be “in possession” of hundreds of pistols made in China and even Pakistan, the police said. Pistols of Pakistani make and magazines were recovered from two suspected Maoists picked up recently from Khagaria in north Bihar.

Guns made in Bihar’s Munger, a centre of illegal arms factories for three decades, are also suspected to have reached Maoists.

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