One of the injured jawans being taken to a Calcutta hospital. Picture by Pradip Sanyal
Jhalda (Purulia), Dec. 25: A Maoist-triggered landmine blast killed a jawan of the elite Cobra force early today before the rebels opened fire from behind trees, sparking a three-hour encounter with the troops in a forest on Purulia’s Ayodhya Hills.
The dead jawan, identified as Bisram Kumar from Bihar’s Munger, was the first casualty for the joint forces in the district, where a CID inspector and his friend were abducted by suspected Maoists in October.
Sources said around 300 jawans of the CRPF unit had gone to Jhalda on a routine operation to flush out rebels and had fanned out in three groups after reaching the forest.
Around 5.45am, the Maoists triggered the blast at Jampani, catching one of the teams unawares. A jawan said the five injured men had to be carried on foot for 15km to Dakai village from where they were taken in vehicles to Ichag village.
Kumar, 28, who was hit by splinters in his head and face, died on the way to Ichag, the jawan said. From Ichag, the others were airlifted to Calcutta and admitted to a hospital.
Inspector-general of police (western range) Zulfikar Hasan said the Maoists started firing from behind trees immediately after the blast. The troops retaliated and the encounter continued till 9.30am when reinforcements arrived, forcing the rebels to retreat.
Police sources said Maoist posters and leaflets had been found in Dakai a few days ago. A resident said the rebels used to hold regular meetings in the village. One person with alleged Maoist links had been arrested from Dakai recently.
Doctors at the Calcutta hospital where the wounded jawans have been admitted said all four had suffered splinter injuries.
A hospital official said one of the jawans, M.R. Swain, 24, was operated on to repair torn abdominal muscles. His intestine damaged, the jawan’s condition is said to be “critical but stable”.
Another jawan, Rajendra Awadh, 25, had a fracture in his right leg, while Loknath Pradhan, 40, suffered severe injuries in his right arm. Kalu Ram, 27, had splinter injuries in several parts of his body.
In October, CID inspector Partha Biswas and his schoolteacher friend Soumyajit Bose were abducted by suspected Maoists from the Jhalda area in Ayodhya Hills. They are yet to be traced.