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Landmine blast on Sonia visit eve

Ranchi/Jamshedpur, Nov. 19: Rebels ambushed a police vehicle in Ghatshila this afternoon, leaving five policemen injured, even as the state widened its security blanket in view of tomorrow's 24-hour Maoist bandh and the visit of Sonia Gandhi who is scheduled to address election meetings in Dumka and Dhanbad.

The Maoist rebels ambushed an anti-landmine vehicle in which the policemen were travelling in near Bhaker village by triggering a landmine blast. The rebels then fired indiscriminately at the police party, fleeing when the forces returned fire.

East Singhbhum superintendent of police, Naveen Kumar Singh, said the police party was going from Shyamsunderpur to Ghurabandha for an anti-insurgency operation when they were attacked.

“Five policemen were injured in the explosion. The condition of one is serious,” said Singh, who rushed to the spot, about 75km from Jamshedpur, immediately after the attack. The injured were shifted to Tata Main Hospital.

The police and paramilitary force including the Central Reserve Police Force later begun combing operations at Ghurabandha, especially near Singhpura and Bhaker villages, considered red dens.

The blast took place just ahead of the 24-hour CPI(Maoist)-sponsored Jharkhand bandh that comes into effect from midnight. The rebels have called the bandh to protest against the Centre's Green Hunt Operation and Assembly polls in the state.

“As the rebels don’t want the Assembly polls, they will try to blow up school buildings where security personnel have been put up or those to be converted as polling booths to frighten voters into staying in on election day,” said an intelligence source. Singh revealed that the police and paramilitary forces were ready with more firepower to cope up with any situation.

Meanwhile, the railway police have also beefed up security arrangements. . “We have started patrolling the tracks. Besides, we are in constant touch with the local administration,” said superintendent of railway police, Amol Homker.

The government machinery is on extra alert in view of the visit of high profile leaders, including Sonia Gandhi to address election meetings tomorrow.

As many as 300 companies of police and paramilitary personnel have been pressed into service to quell any form of trouble during the bandh.

State police spokesperson and IG (human rights), V.H. Deshmukh, said security personnel will be deputed at all strategic points to build confidence among people. “Adequate forces have been provided to ensure free movement of road and railway transport. Police superintendents of all districts have been alerted in view of the movement of VVIPs for electioneering,” Deshmukh said.

Inspector general, Dumka, A Natarajan, said the district administration had taken all precautions in view of the bandh call. IG of Ranchi zone, Rezi Dungdung, said the police had made proper arrangements to ensure security for vehicles on national highways. “Like during previous bandhs, we have decided to ensure movement of vehicles on highways in convoys,” he said.

Sources said the bandh would be used as a rehearsal for anti-Naxalite operations.

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