Remains of the blown-up truck, in which the four BSF jawans were killed, at Ralegada in Koraput. Telegraph picture
Bhubaneswar, Aug. 27: Four BSF jawans were killed when Maoists blew up the vehicle they were travelling in near a culvert at Ralegada, 500km from here, in Koraput’s Sunki valley this morning.
Two jawans, who were in the same vehicle, were injured in the blast. Another BSF officer was injured in a gun battle with the rebels following the explosion that occurred around 9.30am barely 5km from Pottangi police station near Andhra Pradesh border.
Senior police officials, including Koraput police chief Avinash Kumar, rushed to the area where an intensive combing operation has been launched. The two jawans injured in the blast were shifted to Salur hospital in Andhra Pradesh, 25km from the blast site. However, doctors from Pottangi hospital treated the BSF inspector, who suffered gunshot injuries in the exchange of fire with the rebels. He is said to be doing fine.
The slain jawans, who belonged to 161 BSF battalion posted at Balimela in the neighbouring Malkangiri district, were identified as constable Guru Dayal, head constables Birendra Kumar and Surendra Kumar Singh and assistant sub-inspector Jaswant Singh. Surendra Kumar was driving the ill-fated vehicle that was destroyed in the explosion. Chief minister Naveen Patnaik condoled the deaths in a statement in the Assembly here.
The blast is being seen as a revenge act by the Maoists, who suffered a blow when one of their senior leaders, Madhav alias Golla Ramulu, was gunned down by security forces at Machhkund of Koraput district last Friday.
Pottangi police station inspector in-charge Prabhat Kumar Sethi said the explosion near the culvert on the National Highway No. 26 leading up to Vishakhapatnam occurred as three BSF vans with 18 jawans and officers were passing through the area.
“The rebels had planted explosives under the culvert. While the first two vehicles passed safely, the third one with six jawans inside was blown up,” he said. The vehicle was completely gutted in the blast.
Sethi said the vans, which were on their way to Vishakhapatnam from Koraput, were loaded with arms and ammunition.
However, if the Maoists had any intention of looting the arms, they failed to do so as jawans from the other vans rushed to the spot on hearing the blast and engaged the rebels in a gunfight.
Maoist violence has been on the rise in Odisha since 2008 when the rebels launched simultaneous attacks on several police establishments in Nayagarh town killing 12 cops. The same year they had shot dead 38 Greyhound jawans of Andhra Pradesh police while they were trying to cross the Balimela reservoir in Malkangiri district adjoining Koraput.
While the Maoists shot dead 10 CISF jawans during an attack on the Panchpatmali bauxite mines in Koraput in 2009, the following year they blew up a police bus in the district, killing 11 men in uniform. During the next two years, Malkangiri district was on their radar. In 2011, the rebels kidnapped the then district collector, R. Vineel Krishna, keeping him in their custody for about a week. The following year they gunned down four BSF jawans at Balimela.
The shadow of Maoist guns still looms large over Malkangiri.
Around 20,000 people living in the district’s “cut-off” area beyond the Balimela reservoir have been completely insulated from the mainland following a rebel diktat that has paralysed the ferry service on the lake.