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Naxalites plant mine in police path
- Security forces scanning forests for more explosives

Midnapore, April 11: Barely 24 hours after the government discussed ways to ensure that the People’s War does not get to disturb the Lok Sabha polls in the state, a landmine was detected in West Midnapore’s Salboni.

Police located the landmine fitted with a detonator in Ranja forest, about 140 km from Calcutta, late last night. A wire measuring 100 metres, 4 kg of explosives and leaflets urging people to boycott the polls were also found.

Chief secretary Asok Gupta yesterday reviewed certain special measures to be taken in Bankura, Purulia and West Midnapore in the wake of Thursday’s Naxalite attack that left 27 policemen dead in neighbouring Jharkhand’s West Singhbhum district.

West Midnapore superintendent of police Praveen Kumar said: “We are worried. This is the fifth occasion when a landmine, apparently planted by Naxalites to kill police personnel, has been found in a forest in the region.”

“We are combing remote forest areas in search of the extremists and explosives,” he added.

A team of seven from Salboni police station entered the Ranja forest around 9 last night following a tip-off that a band of rebels had assembled there.

“They located the landmine in course of a routine check on a road through the forest. Wiser after repeated incidents of landmine blasts, we have identified certain roads where the extremists plant the landmines expecting to blow up police personnel,” Kumar said. The mine has been sent for forensic examination.

District intelligence officials, who launched a probe after the discovery, warned that the extremists could plant more explosives elsewhere to derail the elections and intimidate voters.

“We have alerted the district administration about possible incidents involving landmines on roads in the Belpahari, Salboni, Lalgarh and Garbeta forest areas with the elections round the corner,” a district intelligence official said. He added that the Naxalites have distributed leaflets in Belpahari asking people to boycott the polls.

Alarmed at reports of possible disturbances in the run-up to the elections, the administration has heightened vigil across West Midnapore. Seven police stations, which cover the vast forest areas, have been put on alert.

“Besides, we are regularly interacting with our counterparts in Purulia and Bankura to conduct joint raids to flush out the extremists,” a senior police officer said.

Such raids, he added, became routine after the February 25 incident in Belpahari in which eight security personnel, including a sub-inspector and his assistant and five Eastern Frontier Rifles jawans, were killed in a landmine blast.

There was a string of People’s War encounters with the police on November 27, January 3 and February 18, but no casualties were reported.

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