Friday, October 14, 2005

Maoist Naxal's mine haul blows lid off Bihar plot

JOY SENGUPTA

Ranchi, Oct. 14: Police today stumbled upon 11 powerful landmines, each weighing 30 kg, from a dried up well barely a few kilometres from the site of last Saturday’s blast in the Baniadih forest in Chatra district, 200 km from here.

Police officials believe the bombs had been hidden by the rebels for use during the Bihar elections. The site is just 6 km from the bordering Bihar district of Gaya. The first phase of polls will take place on Tuesday and both Gaya and Aurangabad — hotbeds of extremism — are voting that day.

A team of policemen from three police stations in and around Baniadih, accompanied by Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) personnel, combed the area around noon and recovered the bombs from the well at Boogadha Pahad in Rabda, just a short distance away from the forest where 12 securitymen died in the explosion on October 8.

Police officials claimed that this time they went to the spot, considered among the most sensitive areas in terms of Naxalite traps and ambushes, “well-prepared”. Chatra superintendent of police Sashinath Jha, who led the team, said: “We were all prepared for the operation and had taken a number of precautionary measures. We had a team of doctors with us in case there was an ambush and medication was required. I had personally asked the deputy commissioner to also arrange for an ambulance so that the jawans could be moved in case of an emergency. Besides, the team had bomb-detecting devices with them, too.”

Police officials said the raid was carried out following a tip-off. “Around 9 in the morning, we got the tip from one of our informers about the landmines. A team was formed immediately and we left for the spot. Rabda is known to be a Naxalite hotbed and has got a long history of ambushes and landmine blasts. These places are difficult to penetrate as there is always a chance of a trap,” Jha said.

The district police chief said the explosives were meant for use in the Bihar elections. “The spot lies close to the Bihar border. Gaya district is only a few kilometres away. We suspect that these landmines were stored there by the Maoists for the Bihar elections. In the wake of the October 8 incident at Baniadih, this catch can be said to be an important one,” he said.

Trees, twigs and shrubs camouflaged the well. “After the discovery, police have launched a full-fledged combing operation in Rabda and Kunda. This catch is a morale-booster for the force. They are all charged up now,” said another senior official.

The police have denied that the Baniadih incident was a case of an informer turning hostile. The incident, police officials said, was a case of negligence on part of the men who were engaged in the operation.