The arrested duo at the Hazaribagh SP’s office on Wednesday. Picture by Vishvendu Jaipuriar
Hazaribagh, Aug. 29: An automatic M16 rifle, used by the US military and air force, and a light-weight bulletproof vest of British make — both meant for the CPI(Maoist)’s hit squad — were seized from a forest on Bihar-Jharkhand border as a district police team netted the rebel outfit’s regional arms unit head and his supplier early this morning.
A bag containing Rs 9 lakh in cash, understandably the payment for the high-end gear, was also confiscated from the spot along with an imported pistol and four mobile phones.
According to SP Manoj Kaushik, the arrests and the arms consignment were clear indication of the Maoist’s intricate international network.
On Tuesday, Hazaribagh police received intelligence information that Anil Yadav, who heads the Maoist arsenal in Bihar-Jharkhand, would be sealing an arms deal at Silodar forest in Chouparan, 74km from the district headquarters.
A 70-member JAP team, headed by Barhi circle inspector Ashok Kumar and comprising Chouparan OC Gopal Krishna Yadav and sub-inspector Sikandar Singh, reached Silodar by 10pm.
After a prolonged wait, they spotted a man with a bag around 4am. He was quickly rounded up and later identified as Maoist arms supplier Praful Malakar, a resident of Bhagwangunj area in Patna.
“The unassembled M16 rifle was tucked between pillows in the bag, which also contained the bulletproof vest made in Manchester, UK. The rifle had 14 live rounds and costs around Rs 8 lakh. The vest is worth anything between Rs 3 lakh and Rs 4 lakh,” the SP said, adding that this was the first time such a high-end firearm was seized in Bihar-Jharkhand.
Malakar’s interrogation confirmed intelligence inputs about Yadav, a resident of Imamgunj in Gaya, and the police team lay in wait. Half an hour later, the target was spotted with a laptop bag. He was nabbed in another swift operation. The bag contained the cash and an imported pistol with two live cartridges.
“Anil Yadav has had stocked up advance weapons such as AK-47s, AK-56s and SLRs for Maoist cadres in the past. The new M16 was exclusively for the hit squad,” SP Kaushik said, adding that the duo would be grilled further for names and details of their contacts in the country and abroad.
Kaushik said the M16 rifle was similar to Insas and could be fired in three different modes — safe, single and burst fire (full automatic). Colt purchased the rights to the rifle, which fires the 5.56mm Nato cartridge believed to cause dramatic fragmentation and tissue wounds.
The rifle was used by the US army and deployed in jungle warfare in South Vietnam in 1963. It became the US military’s standard service rifle in the Vietnam War by 1969, replacing the M14.
The M16 has also been widely adopted by other militaries around the world. The total production of M16-style weapons since the design’s inception has been approximately eight million, making it the most-produced firearm of its calibre.
In 2010, the M16 began to be phased out in the US army. It is being replaced by the M4 carbine, which is itself a derivative of the M16A2.