Patna, Dec. 3: A Maoist blast killed seven policemen including a station house officer in Bihar this afternoon, the state police chief linking the recent spurt in attacks to a move to attach 21 absconding rebel leaders’ properties.
A landmine blew up a police jeep on a highway in Aurangabad district, at a spot 140km southwest of Patna, killing all the seven occupants: five Special Auxiliary Police jawans, a home guard and Tandawa station house officer Ajay Kumar.
The powerful blast shredded the bodies, twisted the vehicle beyond recognition and left a five-foot-deep crater.
Dhruv Kumar, the local station house officer at Nabinagar, was surprised at the rebels’ boldness in targeting the police on a highway rather than in the interiors.
Some police sources suspected a Maoist retaliation to the arrest of local commander Pradeep Yadav last month.
Director-general of police Abhayanand, however, linked the attack to the recent state government initiative to confiscate the property of 21 senior and middle-rung rebel leaders from Bihar, including central committee member Arvind, under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act.
Sources said this was the first time such a measure was being tried in the country and it could involve a lengthy court process, but added that the families of these Maoists had already been served with notices.
Several of these rebel leaders are from Aurangabad and neighbouring Jehanabad.
A statement by Maoist leader Prahar said the attack was a warning to the government to stop the so-called Operation Green Hunt against the outfit. Bihar is officially not part of the operation.
The state has witnessed several Maoist strikes since June 16, when the ruling Janata Dal (United) snapped ties with the BJP.
On Saturday, the rebels killed three policemen and injured two before fleeing with their automatic weapons in Munger. The same evening, they attacked a passenger train that shuttles between Jharkhand and Bihar, and snatched the security guards’ weapons.
Today, however, five police rifles lay at the blast site. “These rifles were damaged so badly that the Maoists probably thought they were useless,” a police source said.
The BJP was quick to attack the “minority” Nitish government’s “soft attitude”, alleging it had given “Maoists and terrorists the upper hand in Bihar”.
Earlier, the Centre had accused the Nitish government of being soft on the Maoists. Of Bihar’s 38 districts, 21 are categorised Maoist-affected and 15 of them “worst affected”.
Nitish today summoned police chief Abhayanand to his residence to discuss the Maoist threat.
The 4.30pm blast took place as the police team was returning to Tandawa from a routine meeting convened by Nabinagar circle inspector Bhup Narayan in his office.