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Arms haul in Maoist zone

Midnapore, Oct. 9: The joint forces today recovered cartridges and detonators from the forests of Lalgarh in what officers said was the biggest arms haul in the area in recent months.

A team of 200 personnel, mostly CRPF jawans, with sniffer dogs and metal detectors raided the Jhitka, Bhelaidanga and Birbhanpur forests and found over 1,000 cartridges, 84 detonators and three improvised explosive devices buried under the soil in bags.

“We carried out the raids after specific tip-offs. We had information that Maoists had hidden ammunition, detonators and IEDs in particular areas in these three forests. The joint forces carried out the raids early this morning and made the recovery,” said Sunil Chowdhury, the district superintendent of police.

CRPF officers, however, said they were yet to find out if the arms were kept there for over a year or had been brought recently. One of them added this was the “biggest recovery of ammunition and explosives in the area in the past six months”, the last being the haul of 45 IEDs.

Asked why 200 jawans were deployed for the raid that primarily involved only recovery of arms, a CRPF officer said they did not want to take any chance after the killing of a Trinamul supporter by suspected Maoists on September 30.

“So, we went all prepared for today’s raid,” the officer added.

According to a police officer, CoBRA jawans had last night entered the forests for a reconnaissance.

“They sent us signals that there were no rebels around and hence no possibility of a counter-attack,” he added.

The officer said the forests of Jhitka were once Maoist strongholds and had witnessed encounters in 2009 and 2010. “That, too, is reason enough for the precaution.”

According to the West Midnapore police, their network in the villages once infested by Maoists had improved. “We have been able to establish better relation with villagers. We are taking part in activities like distributing clothes and books to poor children and organising free health check-up camps,” a senior officer said.