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Explosives theft in Jogi backyard

Bilaspur, Nov. 25: Less than a week to the polls, Chhattisgarh’s Surguja district is on edge after Naxalites raided a public sector undertaking godown on Sunday and escaped with explosives weighing over a thousand kilograms.

The incident, reported to police yesterday, came a day after Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee called for a crackdown on Naxalites at a rally in the district. He said the rebels were misleading the youth.

According to the police, armed cadre of the People’s War Group (PWG) arrived at the godown, 250 km from Bilaspur in central Chhattisgarh, in a truck and loaded it with 1,186 kg of explosives powder, 139 kg of cordite powder, gelatine sticks and 60 metres of fuse-wire.

On their way out, the rebels torched two trucks parked near the godown and left behind a lot of propaganda literature, the police said. The aluminium-producing PSU had stored the explosives for use in bauxite mining sites in the district.

The incident occurred a couple of hours after chief minister Ajit Jogi had left the district following a rally on Sunday afternoon.

Senior police officers, camping at the robbery site, have launched a manhunt for the culprits. Naxalites have a strong presence in at least eight police station areas of Surguja district.

A police investigation is also on to find out if there was a security lapse at the godown, guarded by private security agencies.

The PSU had recently received three quintals of explosives from Hyderabad, news of which was possibly leaked to the Naxalites.

Surguja division inspector-general of police Ashoke Srivastava said over 50 members of the PWG had on November 13 threatened labourers repairing a stretch of road in Kusmi, about 17 km from the district headquarters of Ambikapur. “No roads without our permission,” the cadre are said to have warned the labourers.

The PSU’s main factory is in Kusmi, with the godown about a kilometre away, sources said.

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