Gaya/Patna, Oct. 18: Five CRPF personnel were killed early this morning when Maoists triggered a landmine blast and blew up a patrol vehicle in a forest area near Tarchaun in Gaya, around 160km south of Patna.
At least four personnel of the paramilitary force, including deputy commandant of its 159th battalion, were injured in the ensuing encounter that lasted for nearly six hours. Though police claimed that three Maoists were killed, not a single body has been found so far.
The explosion went off on the Sewra-Barha road around 6.50am, almost 40 minutes after a contingent of at least 80 jawans had started from their base camp in Imamganj block on a long-range patrol-cum-combing operation following a tip-off about the presence of Maoists in the Barha-Chhakarbandha forest area. Imamganj is around 20km from the blast site.
“The area is a Maoist stronghold and similar incidents have been reported earlier as well. Today’s patrol convoy was led by an anti-landmine vehicle carrying 10 jawans, including the driver. Some of the security personnel were in other vehicles while a few others were moving on foot. The rebels triggered the blast in a way that it hit the anti-landmine vehicle. All 10 personnel in it were critically wounded,” an officer at the state police headquarters told The Telegraph.
Sub-inspector Ramji Ram and driver Lala Babu Rai perished on the spot. “Jawan Vikramaditya Yadav died while undergoing treatment at Anugrah Narayan Medical College and Hospital (ANMCH) in Gaya. His colleague, Ashok Nirala, succumbed to injuries while being taken to Patna,” the officer added.
Jawan Rai Singh and four others were airlifted from the Gaya airport in an Indian Air Force helicopter flown in from Ranchi. They were admitted to Rajeshwar Hospital near Bahadurpur in Patna. Singh died before he could be taken to the hospital. “The condition of Manoj Kumar Rai, Shaffudin Ali, Girish Kumar and Amrit Bhai is critical,” the officer said.
Inspector-general (operations) Amit Kumar said additional reinforcements have been sent to the blast site. “The target of the explosion was the anti-landmine vehicle. It was badly damaged. Security personnel have launched a large-scale combing operation,” he added.
Sources in the police said the Maoists began firing at the CRPF team after setting off the blast. The jawans returned fire while carrying off those injured in the explosion, they said.
The sources added that three companies of the anti-Maoist CoBRA battalion from Dumaria block in Gaya were sent to the encounter site. “Two companies of the CRPF’s 47th battalion, stationed at Nabinagar in Aurangabad and Badal Garh in Dehri, and a company of the 215th battalion, posted at Madanpur in Aurangabad, were also despatched,” a source said.
Four more CRPF personnel were injured in the encounter that continued till 1pm. “Deputy commandant (159th battalion) B.K. Singh and jawans Kaushal Sharma, Sachin Patel Gokul and Hanumant Singh were injured and admitted to ANMCH,” CRPF deputy inspector-general Umesh Kumar said.
Sources said a leak in information or intelligence lapse could not be ruled out. “There have been several instances of the Maoists trapping security forces. It appears that the rebels had information about a security team taking the route and were waiting to strike. Some people have been rounded up and their interrogation is on,” a source added.
Three CRPF personnel were killed in an encounter with the rebels in the same area on June 12 this year. On January 17, 2011, CRPF jawan Sanjay Bhadra was killed in an encounter with the rebels in the Chhakarbandha forests.