Hazaribagh, Nov. 10: A Maoist hit squad headed by a sub-zonal commander, who is active in bordering areas of Bihar and Jharkhand and was involved in the 2007 Chilkhari massacre that had killed Babulal Marandi’s son Anup and 20 others, was behind yesterday’s attack on a prisoner van in Giridih.
Giridih superintendent of police Amol Venukant Homkar said the CPI(Maoist) squad led by zonal commander Chirag had committed several crimes in the district as well as neighbouring Jamui in Bihar.
Though Homkar failed to say how many rebels were part of the squad, sources claimed it comprised 50 to 60 armed men with expertise in handling landmines and launching surprise attacks on the police.
Sources added Bihar police assisted by the CRPF had launched a number of operations to nab Chirag, but failed.
Meanwhile, IG(operations) S.N. Pradhan also confirmed that the ambush was the work of the hit squad led by Chirag. The IG, who reached Giridih today, went to the spot on Giridih-Dhanbad Road near Dakhiya, 5km from town, where the incident took place. IG of Bokaro range Murari Lal Meena and DIG (Hazaribagh) Suman Gupta accompanied him.
They also went to police lines, where the bodies of the three cops were brought and given a guard of honour.
He said five companies of paramilitary forces would be stationed in Giridih.
Pradhan clarified that the 60-men squad that fired upon the prisoner van yesterday was successful in freeing six Maoists from the van. Earlier, the police had said that seven hardcore cadres managed to escape with the rebels.
The IG said one Maoist, Bipin Mandal, returned to town and was discovered undergoing treatment late last night at a nursing home after he was injured in the crossfire. Among three inmates who had returned yesterday to jail on their own was an eighth Maoist, Baijnath Tiwari.
Pradhan said the hit squad had struck in order to free one Shahdeo Soren, alias Anuj, alias Pervez.
Sources said a massive combing operation was on in the border areas of Jamui and Giridih. Police officials also said that they recovered 10 bikes, used by Maoists in the ambush, and rounded up two persons for interrogation.
Police sources in Giridih said the incident had jolted the top brass in Ranchi.
They said the attack was being seen as a direct challenge to police. The police higher-ups had also expressed concern over the negligence of police in escorting a prisoner van despite the fact that Maoists had launched a major attack in 2005, looting 183 rifles from the home guard training centre in Pachamba area and killing five.
Sources in the intelligence department said that rebels had worked on the plan to free the cadres by keeping watch on the transit van for the last one month.