Gaya/Patna, Feb. 22: Seven security personnel were killed in a powerful landmine explosion set off by the Maoists this afternoon near Raushanganj, a stronghold of the Naxalites in Gaya district.
Unconfirmed reports said the firearms belonging to the policemen were also taken away by the guerrillas after the vehicle in which they were travelling was blown up around 12.30pm. This is the second such attack on security personnel in Gaya district in the past four months.
The policemen were returning to the Raushanganj police station after attending a law and order meet at Balasot village, around 2km away. The landmine went off as soon as the vehicle got on to a concrete road, about 700 metres away from the police station.
The explosion was so powerful that the vehicle was blown to pieces and its tremor was felt across a radius of about one kilometre. The limbs of the cops were scattered all around.
Deputy inspector-general (Magadh range) Nayyar Hasnain Khan said those killed were Pradyuman Rai (assistant sub-inspector), Shivmuni Rai (havildar), four jawans of the Jamui-based 11 Bihar Military Police ó Dharmendra Kumar, Amit Kumar, Subhash Prasad Yadav and Rakesh Kumar ó and special police officer Pawan Kumar, who was driving the vehicle. The seventh person killed has been identified as Ramesh Mistri, a local resident said to be the father in-law of the sarpanch of Raushanganj panchayat.
Khan said the securitymen had gone to the village on the request of a child development programme officer, who had apprehended law and order problem in the selection of anganwadi sevikas.
Reports said the Maoists were following the police vehicle on six motorcycles with two seated on each bike. After the blast, the Maoists also fired indiscriminately.
IEDs seized after Latehar shootout
Security personnel, engaged in an overnight encounter with Maoists, seized four improvised explosive devices (IED) and milk cans from Chuku forest, about 85km from Ranchi at Herhanj in Latehar, on Friday morning.
According to police sources, each IED weighed 20kg and was powerful enough to blow up an anti-landmine vehicle, causing severe injuries to personnel inside.
Sources in the joint team said all the seized IEDs were defused.
DIG Khan, however, refuted reports of loot of firearms and said parts of damaged regular weapons have been recovered from the blast site.
He said a combing operation had been launched in the area with the help of Cobra, Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), special task force (STF) and the district armed police. The assistance of Jharkhand police has also been sought.
In October last year, five CRPF jawans were killed in a similar landmine explosion at Barha village in Gaya district. The Maoists had blown up the anti-landmine vehicle carrying the jawans.
Maoists blew up a health sub-centre at Serengdag, about 100km from the district headquarters, also under Herhanj police station around 2.30am.
State police spokesperson and IG (operations) S.N. Pradhan said there were no casualties.