Jamshedpur, June 6: Maoist rebels shot dead two residents of Kuitopa village in Keraikela police station area of West Singhbhum early this morning, striking terror among villagers living on the periphery of Saranda reserve.
Jugal Kishore Tanti (45) and Jitbal Swati (40), branded police informers by the rebels, were dragged away from their homes into a nearby forest by an armed group around 2am. The village is around 110km from the steel city.
West Singhbhum superintendent of police Arun Kumar Singh said the villagers were shot dead in the forest and then their throats slit. Before leaving the spot, the rebels left behind a couple of posters that said those who cooperated with the police would meet the same fate.
Singh said a squad of 15 Naxalites descended on Kuitopa village, which is located on the periphery of Saranda forest, close to Chakradharpur. While half of the group waited on the road, around seven of them went to bring the victims out of their homes.
Though the Keraikela police station is about 7km away from the murder spot, the police were informed about the incident only in the morning.
Later, CRPF personnel carried out combing operations in the nearby jungles that are part of Kolhan forest division.
According to Intelligence sources, the killings indicate that though the rebels have been ousted from Saranda forest area, they are still active in the fringes of the saal reserve.
Denying that those killed were police informers, the SP announced that the administration would be giving Rs 1 lakh to the next of kin of each of the victims. He added that Jitbal was a local BJP leader.
Saranda forest, which the state claims has been purged of rebels, is 40km south of Keraikela police station area.
Ever since Operation Monsoon in July 2011, rebels have carried out sporadic attacks in the periphery of the forest, killing eight persons, including a CRPF officer.
On November 25, 2011, rebels killed two brothers on the main road connecting Chakradharpur with Sonua block.
The victims identified as Koda Kerai and Kot Kerai were residents of Ichakuti village. Their bodies were found dumped on Chakradharpur main road, about 90km from Jamshedpur, with their throats slit and hands tied. A poster found at the spot had also warned people against becoming police informers.
On November 4, suspected Maoists gunned down two persons at Lailore village in Manoharpur block of the district.
Meanwhile, in Ranchi, DGP G.S. Rath said the incident took place in Porahat and not in Saranda.