Patna, April 15: Naxalites blew up a patrol jeep as it was crossing a bridge at Nawada in central Bihar this afternoon, killing seven policemen.
Three state police personnel and four Bihar Military Police jawans died in the strike by suspected Maoist Communist Centre activists, a day after a 200-strong Naxalite army emptied the Government Railway Police armoury in neighbouring Jharkhand.
The three state policemen have been identified as Sailesh Ram, D.P. Yadav and Anil Yadav. The four military police jawans are yet to be identified.
The patrol van with five policemen and four military police jawans, on routine duty in Naxalite-affected areas, was heading towards Supri village in Nawada in the last leg of the day’s visits to the area when the blast occurred.
Around 1 pm, the patrol team took a kuchcha road to the village and came to a small bridge over a canal. As it was trying to cross the bridge, there was a deafening blast and the van was thrown high up in the air. Eyewitnesses told the police it turned into a fireball.
“The bodies of three policemen were blown into pieces and the van was reduced to a mangled wreckage,” said one policeman returning to Nawada, which is close to the Jharkhand border, after a preliminary probe. Two policemen died on their way to hospital and two more died in hospital.
After the blast, Naxalites hiding in nearby areas opened fire and injured two policemen. They have been admitted to Nawada district hospital. The rebels also snatched police rifles.
“The blast was caused by sophisticated landmines that the Naxalites set up on the stretch of kuchcha roads to kill security personnel,” said D.P. Ojha, the director-general of police. “It was extremely well-planned,” he added.
“We have ordered a thorough probe. We have still to confirm which Naxalite group was involved, but prima facie we suspect the MCC,” said police spokesperson Rituraj, a DIG rank officer.
The Naxalites have been using landmines in Jharkhand and in Jehanabad in Bihar, but this is the first time they have targeted Nawada.
The MCC, which was keeping a low profile because of largescale desertions over the past few months, is believed to be on its mission to regroup now.
“The MCC itself does not possess many landmines but after closing ranks with the People’s War and getting hi-tech expertise from it, the outfit might have planned the attack in Nawada, which borders Jharkhand,” said a member of the special task force of Bihar.
Nawada was in the news recently for caste killings involving Akhilesh Singh Ganga and Mahato gangs.
Security forces believe the Naxalites are exploiting the volatile social condition of the district to consolidate their base.