Bhubaneswar, Dec. 28: Maoists, who appear to be targeting infrastructure as a matter of strategy, today triggered a blast that damaged a bridge in Malkangiri district, 500km from here, marking the beginning of their indefinite shutdown protesting “fake” encounter killings and the Centre’s decision to intensify Operation Green Hunt.
The rebels triggered a dynamite blast, damaging a portion of the bridge over the Potteru river that connects Padia block with Kalimela.
There were no casualties in the incident.
The incident comes close on the heels of Padia block office being destroyed by the Maoists in a landmine blast. The building was gutted in the December 25 attack, which was the second on the block since 2010.
Sources said a group of 50 Maoists reached the bridge near a Kanyashram school around 2.30am and blew up part of the structure using dynamite. They left behind posters, condemning the killing of their colleagues by the police in fake encounters.
Malkangiri superintendent of police Akhileshwar Singh played down the incident, saying there had been no major damage to the bridge. “They damaged the concrete surface between the road and the bridge, which has been repaired by our men and the BSF. Though some wires were found at the spot, we doubt there was a blast. They are trying to terrorise the people,” he said. The Maoists also attacked the house of special police officer Lachhmaiya at Sangel, around 2km from the bridge, and looted his belongings.
Sources attributed the sudden spurt in Maoist violence in Malkangiri and Koraput districts to infiltration of rebels into these areas from neighbouring Chhattisgarh.
“Their organisation has weakened following killing of senior cadres and a spate of arrests and surrenders. They want to re-establish themselves by terrorising the people, but the move is going to backfire,” said a senior officer, adding that even the tribal residents of the rebel-dominated districts, once their close allies, have now turned against them.
Sources said disillusioned with sustained violence, the tribal people living in and around Nuapada district’s Sunabeda sanctuary had banned the entry of the rebels to the wildlife habitat, which is near the Chhattisgarh border. There have also been clashes between the Maoists and tribal villagers in parts of Malkangiri district.
In September, the police notched up a major success in its operation against the Left wing extremists when it gunned down 13 of them in an encounter near Malkangiri-Chhattisgarh border. Itching for revenge, the rebels killed four persons, including a contractor and a village ward member, earlier this month.
Sources said the Maoists were upset with the Centre’s decision to intensify operation against them in eight states, including Odisha, where both the BSF and the CRPF had been deployed to step up combing. The CPI (Maoist), Malkangiri district committee leader, Poonam Chander, has warned of retaliation in an audiotape and said the strike that began in Malkangiri and Koraput today would continue till central forces were withdrawn and fake encounter killings stopped.