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Cops blown up in Betla blast

Daltonganj, Nov. 20: As Andhra continued to bleed from Monday’s blunder blast triggered by Naxalites, People’s War guerrillas blew up seven policemen inside the Project Tiger reserve at Betla in Latehar district this morning.

An assistant sub-inspector of police, six jawans and a civilian driver of the police jeep were killed after a powerful landmine, suspected to have been planted by the extremists, exploded near Labharnaka. One jawan was seriously wounded.

The total number of policemen killed by extremist outfits in the state has now crossed the 150-mark.

The attack comes barely 48 hours after People’s War Group rebels blew up 14 people on a bus near Warangal in Andhra Pradesh, mistaking them for policemen returning from an encounter site.

Soon after this morning’s strike in Betla, the Naxalites looted five self-loading rifles, a carbine and at least 1,000 rounds of cartridges from the slain policemen. The police later recovered a carbine that was found lying in the bushes nearby.

The underground outfit left behind a pamphlet claiming responsibility for the act, which, they said, was “in retaliation” to the killings of their frontline leaders, including Dadhichi Rai, by the police. The pamphlet said the blast had been triggered also in retaliation against the joint anti-extremist operations launched by different states.

In Ranchi, Jharkhand director-general of police Rajiv Rajan Prasad said the explosion was so powerful that the vehicle, a Commander jeep, was thrown several metres off the ground, killing seven policemen and the driver on the spot.

He did not rule out the possibility of the PW men having used sophisticated “plastic landmines” to trigger the explosion.

Sources said the police personnel were on a routine patrol of the area, located 42 km from Daltonganj. The landmine was planted on the middle of the Daltonganj-Mahuadar road near the Labharnaka bridge.

Those killed have been identified as assistant sub-inspector Mohammed Mohsin Khan, Jawahar Singh and Krishna Singh (havildars), Mohammed Shahzad Khan, Ram Pravesh Singh, Ranbir Lakra and Jagannath Pandit (constables) and Gore Bhuiyan, the driver of the jeep.

The injured jawan, identified as Mohan Rao, has been rushed to Rajendra Institute of Medical Sciences in Ranchi.

Senior police officials, including zonal inspector-general Rajiv Kumar, IG (operations) R.C. Kaithal, Palamau DIG Amitabh Chowdhury and the police superintendents of Latehar and Palamau, O.P. Khare and Anil Palta, respectively are camping at the spot.

Police have launched combing operations in the Project Tiger reserve while the incident has sparked panic among the tourists who have left the area.

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