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4 injured in Malda bus firing, finger at KLO

Dec. 27: Bullets were fired at a running bus in a Kamtapur Liberation Organisation stronghold in Malda tonight, injuring four passengers on the eve of the militant outfit’s foundation day.

Yesterday, on the KLO’s “martyrs’ day”, a blast suspected to have been triggered by the outfit had killed five persons in Jalpaiguri.

Police sources said they were not ruling out the involvement of the KLO, which demands a separate Kamtapur state, in tonight’s attack.

Malda police chief Kalyan Mukherjee said the injured passengers were being brought to Malda Medical College Hospital. The extent of the injury was not clear.

The bus, ferrying 25 passengers, was near its destination in Pakuahat.

Before the panchayat polls this year, a BJP panchayat member was shot dead in Pakuahat, an attack suspected to have been carried out by the KLO. In 2006, alleged KLO members had gunned down a DYFI leader in the same area.

The KLO had gone into hibernation after a flush-out drive in Bhutan in 2003. But since last year, the outfit has shown signs of regrouping.

The KLO is suspected to have carried out a number of militant activities since then, including a bus blast in Jalpaiguri in August this year and another explosion that killed a constable in Alipurduar days later.

Representatives of the Kamtapur Peoples’ Party and some former KLO militants today said the government should immediately hold talks with representatives of the Rajbangshi community in north Bengal and work for their development.

A statement attributed to the KLO denied the outfit’s hand in yesterday’s Jalpaiguri blast. A report by the state intelligence branch, however, indicated that the group had planned to target a market close to NH31, 1km from the Bajrapara culvert where the bomb went off.

The statement purportedly released by the KLO says the police were “trying to bring misunderstanding among the Kamatapuri people by blaming us”.

The letter mentioned the place of the blast as Paharpur Bazar, which is 1km from Bajrapara.

The statement, under the KLO’s letterhead, was signed by Kailash Koch, a general secretary of the outfit.

In Calcutta, a senior home department official said: “A preliminary report has reached us. All the possibilities are being explored.”

The police suspect the militants had planned to carry out the explosion at Paharpur More, which is close to Paharpur Bazar. The bomb, it appears, detonated before it was taken to the actual target, an officer said.

A lot of people throng the market at the time of the blast — 7.30pm.

According to home department sources, the blast mastermind is 26-year-old Dhubri resident Nityananda Sarkar alias Shyam Roy, a key member of the KLO’s central committee.

Intelligence sources said Sarkar was also working as a linkman between the KLO and the NDFB-IKS, a faction of the National Democratic Front of Bodoland. The NDFB-IKS is suspected to have supplied the explosives.