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CRPF men saved by a whisker

Bokaro, Jan. 24: A CRPF team, careful enough to follow standard operating procedure while patrolling a forest area, escaped with minor injuries when Maoists detonated a chain of heavy-duty explosives buried under a muddy path early on Sunday.

As many as 41 IEDs — one more than the number of CRPF men who were at Jamnijara in Lodiawan forest zone, about 105km from Bokaro steel city — had been meticulously planted by Maoists.

Thankfully, while traversing the only pathway to Jhumra hills, the men in the patrol team chose to do what they often ignore to do, ie, stay on one side of the road. Thus, when the restless bunch of rebels, who were hiding in the forests nearby, detonated their lethal cocktail of explosives in the wee hours of Sunday, the CRPF men were saved.

As the bombs started to go off one by one, the security forces realised in no time what was happening. They dispersed into the nearby areas, regrouped and were able to retaliate when they were fired upon by the rebels in wait.

Only 11 CRPF men were injured. According to Coal Belt DIG Laxman Singh, their injuries were minor.

He, along with Bokaro SP Kuldip Dwivedi, CRPF’s 26th battalion commandant Sanjay Kumar and Ramgarh SP Anish Gupta, visited the site of the blasts in Jhumra yesterday and prepared a detailed report on the events of Sunday.

“It turned out to be a close shave for the men in fatigues,” said Singh.

“The fact that no metal was used in the IEDs to evade detection, points to how Naxalites are adopting new technology to counter the security forces,” he added.

SP Dwivedi filled in with details. He said the Maoists had attached all the 41 explosives to a single chord that had knots every 3 metres to 4 metres, covering a distance of over 150 meters. They did not use any metal, either in the bombs or to fasten them to the rope.

The contraption was laid out barely 2 feet under the ground near a sharp turning of the road at Jamnijara, for maximum impact.

An invisible wire connected to it made its way into the forests where the Maoists were hiding.

“If the CRPF men were walking on the middle of the path and had the rebels detonated the explosives at that time, it would have had disastrous consequences,” Dwivedi said.

Police sources revealed that the explosives were planted by a group of Maoists under the leadership of special area commander of Bihar-Jharkhand Ajay Mahto along with zonal commander Santosh Mahto and Mukhlal, alias Bhagat. Nine other Maoist cadres were with them for support.

An FIR has been lodged at Mahuatand (Bokaro) police station against all.

The Maoists of the Jhumra zone have been trying to make their presence felt in the area regularly with the intention of disrupting work on a 14km road from Rahawan. They have been trying to stall the Rs 18 crore road that promises to resolve local commuting owes.

“We are adopting new ways to fight Maoists with the help of the local population and the media. The police, too, are trying to gain better intelligence about their area,” the DIG said.