An injured policeman in Dhanbad being taken to Ranchi for treatment on Wednesday. (Gautam Dey)
Dhanbad, June 27: Armed Maoists ambushed a vehicle carrying policemen in the wee hours of Wednesday, killing a jawan and injuring 15 others at Topchanchi, the town near Dhanbad that still mourns the killing of 13 cops in a daring rebel operation executed with lethal precision some 11 years ago.
Ten minutes into the Maoists’ 24-hour bandh at 12.10am, rebel gangs hiding on both sides of NH-2 opened fire on the mini truck as it was negotiating a U-turn at Mantand to return to the Topchanchi police station, around 35km from Dhanbad.
Jawan Dhaneshwar Mahto was killed while the injured, including Topchanchi police assistant sub-inspector (ASI) Hari Oraon, have been rushed to hospitals in Dhanbad and Ranchi.
Oraon, who was leading the patrol party, said they left the police station around 11am after dinner and reached Mantand around 12.10am. As the driver, Prakash Chandra Mahto, slowed down to make the turn through a gap in the road divider, Maoists hiding on both sides of the road opened fire, taking the police team by surprise.
“We opened fire on the Maoists too, even as Mahto picked up speed and drove till Topchanchi non-stop amid heavy shelling,” he recalled. The police mini truck (JH 10 Y 4531) was badly damaged in the incident.
Senior police officers, including IG (North Chotanagpur) Murari Lal Meena and DIG (Coal Belt) Lakshman Prasad Singh, reached Dhanbad around 1.30am and visited Central Hospital where they spoke to the injured jawans.
Later this morning, both the IG and DIG, accompanied by Dhanbad SP Ravi Kant Dhan and a host of other officers, visited Topchanchi police station to coordinate combing operations that were launched in the area almost immediately.
nBlasts stop state in its tracks, Page 5
“The police unit that came under attack was on board a mini truck which was a normal vehicle without anti-land mine protection. Their injuries were due to the firing and not because of any explosion,” Meena told newsmen.
Apart from Oraon, those who were injured were constables Dinesh Tuddu, Amit Bara, Uday Kumar, Satrughan Prasad, Damodar Ram, Mehboob Alam, Nimaruddin, Suman Kujur, Mahendra Thakur, Prakash Chandra Mahto, Baljit Singh, Akhilesh Pandey, Prakash Khadia and Bihshnu Bhuian.
All of them were sent to Central Hospital of Dhanbad in bullet proof vehicles.
After daybreak, Oraon, Prakash Chandra Mahto, Suman Kujur, Dinesh Tuddu, Hari Oraon, Uday Kumar and Prakash Khadia were referred to Ranchi’s Apollo Hospital.
On October 31, 2001, 13 JAP policemen were killed and four others were injured when over 200 suspected rebels carrying sophisticated weapons attacked the Topchanchi police picket. The rebels, who had entered the picket at noon, outnumbered the policemen and wrapped up their gory attack in 20 minutes flat. They took away 16 SLRs, four carbines and 2,000 cartridges and fled before more cops could arrive from district headquarters.