Ranchi, Dec. 11: Maoists triggered a landmine blast on NH-75 in Manika, Latehar, today, moments after a police team passed the spot in an attempt similar to Monday’s highway attack barely 3km away.
The driver and two constables — among a group of about 12 personnel from Manika police station who were returning in two vehicles after escorting former DGP V.D. Ram till Deobar village — sustained minor splinter injuries.
They were taken to a hospital and released after first aid.
Monday’s explosion seems to have been targeted at another group from Manika police station. Nine policemen, DSP Alok Baraik and Manika OC Mithilesh Kumar were saved in the nick of time as the landmine exploded minutes after they crossed the spot in a vehicle.
Like that day, today’s ambush bid triggered a fresh gun battle between police and Maoists in the adjoining forests.
“There was no casualty in today’s ambush. Search operations have been intensified. Detailed reports are awaited,” said Latehar SP Michael Raj S.
“The Manika escort party was coming back after Ram was received by a team from the Latehar police station when the incident occurred. The policemen were in two vehicles. The first vehicle crossed the mined spot. The explosion took place seconds after the second one crossed it around 1.30pm,” said an officer.
According to him, it was too early to say whether the rebels had actually planned to target Ram, now a BJP member whose name figures on the Maoist hit list, or wanted to loot police weapons.
When contacted, the former DGP, a potential BJP candidate for the Palamau Lok Sabha seat, said he had reached Ranchi safely. “The rebel outfits are a serious threat to my life. About four months back, the Union home ministry had asked the state government to beef up my security, but I don’t know what has been done on that front. I always inform the SPs of the districts concerned about my itinerary whenever I move around,” he said.
In keeping with VIP security guidelines, police stations provide Ram an escort party whenever he is travelling.
Sources, however, said that though the rebels were well-stocked on sophisticated weapons, they were gradually running out of ammunition. Hence, police patrol teams have become their specific targets.
The ambush on NH-75 also exposes how unsafe the highway has become for commuters. After Monday’s failed ambush, three more serial blasts took place on the highway even though police intensified search operations.
“Additional forces have been rushed there. About 200 rebels are believed to be present in the area. We are trying to corner them from different sides,” said an officer engaged in the search operations.