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Raid reveals holed-up smugglers

Malda, April 4: Four men with Rs 30-lakh worth of contraband were found locked in the luggage van of the Sealdah-bound Uttarbanga Express today.

Amid the drama that unfolded a little after 12.30 am, a special squad of the Railway Protection Force (RPF) arrested them from Malda station.

Parimal Saha of Siliguri, Safiqul Sheikh of Behrampore, and Zahir Sheikh and Moinuddin Sheikh, both from Beldanga in Murshidabad, were holed up in the luggage van with cameras (1,500), flashlights (5,000), vacuum flasks (1,000), binoculars (1,000) — all of Chinese make — pirated CDs and DVDs and cardamom.

Though the four did not have railway tickets, a private airline ticket from Calcutta to Mumbai for today was found on Parimal.

According to a source in the RPF, a call from the office of the inspector general of police (north Bengal) to Malda had prompted last night’s raid. However, the instruction — the call came after the train left Siliguri — was to hunt for explosives that were supposedly being smuggled to Calcutta by the express. As soon as the train chugged into Malda around 12.30 am, a special squad of the RPF with two sniffer dogs began the combing operation.

However, when the squad reached the luggage van, they found it locked from inside. Not taking any chances, the RPF men detached the compartment from the train and took it out of the platform with the help of a separate engine. Very few passengers realised what was going on. Two fire tenders were also rushed to the spot.

The security personnel then surrounded the van with their guns aimed at the luggage van, apprehending the “armed extremists” to come out any moment. When the door was opened using gas-cutters, the four smugglers flung themselves on the jawans in an attempt to flee.

Station master Dilip Chauhan said the train left for Sealdah at 2.45 am. “We are lucky that nothing untoward happened,” he said.

The security commissioner of Eastern Railway (Malda), Ramshankar Prasad, said the quartet was linked to a big smuggling racket and could not have been travelling the way they were without the connivance of a section of the railway staff and the RPF.

RPF sources said the initial alert about the explosives had come from Delhi. “We have seized goods worth nearly a crore in the past two weeks,” said a senior RPF officer.

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