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15 Naxalites in Purulia blast crackdown net

Calcutta, Oct. 12: Purulia police today arrested 15 Naxalites in connection with the landmine explosion and ambush on a police party in the district yesterday in which one officer was killed.

“All those arrested are being interrogated. Intensive searches are being conducted for those still absconding,” said home secretary Amit Kiran Deb. He added that the government has received a preliminary report from the district administration and special security forces have been deployed in Purulia and West Midnapore districts, bordering Jharkhand.

Western range inspector-general Gautam Chakraborty, who is camping at Bandwan, where the attack took place, said tonight extensive raids were being conducted in the forest areas of Banspahari under Belpahari police station in West Midnapore.

He suspects People’s War activists had triggered the explosion. Reports yesterday had indicated the hand of Maoist Communist Centre (MCC) rebels.

Officials investigating the case feel the extremists might have taken shelter in Banspahari and the adjoining forests as they are strongholds of the People’s War and MCC.

Deputy inspector-general of police (south Chhotanagpur) S.K. Meena described the Purulia incident as “alarming”. “We have decided to step up vigil in the border areas,” he said.

“Preliminary investigations suggest that People’s War rebels had gone to Bandwan from Ghatshila,” police sources said.

They added that in the past few weeks, movement of extremists in Bandwan and some other areas of Purulia, which border Ghatshila, had increased. “We believe yesterday’s attack was in retaliation against the Longo incident,” the sources said. In August, residents of the tiny Longo hamlet in Ghatshila had lynched 13 People’s War activists.

Around 3 pm yesterday, a 15-member police team, travelling in three vehicles, set out for the Kantabora forest, 30 km from Bandwan in southeast Purulia, after receiving information that the Naxalites were holding a secret meeting there.

As they entered the forest, a landmine exploded under the first van, injuring three constables. Nilmadhab Das, the officer-in-charge of Bandwan police station, got down from the second jeep to help those wounded.

As soon as he stepped out, Das was greeted by a volley of gunfire. He died on the way to hospital. Altogether 10 constables received injuries.

Of the injured, two were shifted to the SSKM hospital in Calcutta as their condition deteriorated. A 21-member medical board, comprising neurologists, surgeons and orthopaedic surgeons, has been formed to monitor their condition.

D.D. Chattopadhyay, surgeon superintendent of the hospital, said surgeries were carried out on the two constables. “One of them has a splinter embedded in his skull while the other has a clot in his brain”, he added.

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