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Maheshwar stable, police detain eight

Bhubaneswar, Feb. 22: Police zeroed in on the culprits who shot at law, tourism and culture minister Maheshwar Mohanty last night. The minister’s condition is stated to be stable.

The unidentified criminals had shot three rounds at the minister near his residence in Puri. After preliminary treatment at the district hospital, he was brought to Bhubaneswar and admitted at a private hospital.

A team of doctors successfully removed a bullet from his chest in the early hours today through surgical procedure.

The district police, which swung into action last night, has detained eight persons suspected to be involved in the murderous attack and are interrogating them.

The cops have seized four vehicles, 12 mobile phones, four revolvers from the suspected persons.

The police today said the bullets retrieved from the minister’s body could have been fired from a country-made pistol.

Police sources said the attack seemed to be the outcome of a property related dispute. In August 2012, Talachu Bhagaban Mohapatra alias Guna Singh, a BJD councillor, was murdered due to a land dispute.

“There is some links between the murder of the councillor and the attack on the minister, who had begun his political career as a local councillor. We are examining statements of some of the eyewitnesses,” a senior police official associated with the investigation said.

Director-general of police Prakash Mishra, who visited the spot today, said the police had got vital clues in the case and would shortly arrest the culprits. “The accused are from Puri town and no outsider (hired assassins) was involved.”

Puri superintendent of police Anup Sahu, who has come under severe criticism for deteriorating law and order in the pilgrim town, too, expressed the confidence that the district police would arrest the culprits shortly.

Chief minister Naveen Patnaik visited the hospital in the city where the minister was undergoing treatment. His cabinet colleagues and leaders cutting across party lines, including senior Congress leader Narasingh Mishra, met Mohanty and wished him a speedy recovery.