Feb. 26: Maoists stunned Bengal in the middle of poll preparations, killing at least four people by blowing up a police vehicle in West Midnapore on the second anniversary of a similar strike in the same area.
The site of the landmine attack in Belpahari is hardly 45 km from that of a carnage on the eve of the New Year when CPM district secretariat member Rabindranath Kar and his wife were burnt to death in the neighbouring Purulia district.
Today’s explosion occurred around 5 pm at Naakrachhara, 225 km from Calcutta, when a van hired by the police hit the landmine.
The van, carrying at least 14 people, was returning from a medical camp organised by the police as part of a public relations drive in Maoist strongholds. Four people ' the driver, a helper, a home guard and a constable, all aged between 25 and 40 ' died on the spot while six have been admitted to hospital with injuries.
The West Midnapore superintendent of police, Ajay Nanda, had also attended the camp and a jeep carrying him had passed through the same spot two-and-a-half hours ago, prompting police to believe that he was the real target.
Nanda had launched a crackdown on the Maoists in Belpahari, a bastion of the rebels who had carried out a strike on a police jeep in 2004, killing eight security personnel. That attack was also carried out on a February 26.
However, following the police clampdown, Belpahari had fallen quiet and the extremists had shifted focus to the neighbouring Bankura and Purulia districts.
CPM state secretary Anil Biswas said in Calcutta tonight that the Maoists’ target was the police officer. “The Maoists so far have killed 19 police and security persons. The administration should be more vigilant since the guerrillas appear to have targeted senior police officials and CPM leaders,” said Biswas.
The guerrillas had placed the landmine on a stretch of road near an irrigation canal. The explosion lifted the vehicle off the ground several feet.
As soon as he was told of the blast, Nanda rushed back to Belpahari. In the morning, Nanda had led a 30-member team, including two doctors, to the medical camp in Barshol. The officer left around 2 pm. The van that was blown up was the last to leave.