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KLO leader caught with gun

Malda, April 13: Malkhan Singh, a senior KLO leader wanted for last year’s Malda bus firing and an accused in cases of murder, extortion and smuggling, was arrested from a forest in the district early today with a German Heckler and Koch rifle and fake currency.

Personnel from two police stations lay in wait for Malkhan, 32, in the forest at Jamalpur after getting a tip-off that the leader, who is in charge of a Kamtapur Liberation Organisation (KLO) battalion, would come there for a meeting with other militants of the outfit.

As soon as Malkhan, who had suffered a leg injury while escaping from a police trap in Gajole a few weeks ago, arrived in Jamalpur, the cops surrounded him.

The police said Malkhan, from whom an HK33 assault rifle, 122 rounds of ammunition, fake India currency with the face value of Rs 85,500 and genuine notes worth Rs 40,000 were seized, did not offer any resistance.

The KLO wants a separate Kamtapur state and has stepped up militant activities in north Bengal in the past few months. A blast suspected to have been triggered by the outfit in Jalpaiguri last year killed six people a day before the firing on the bus in Malda in which no one was injured.

This morning, Malkhan, accused of involvement in the murder of BJP leader Nripen Burman last year, was remanded in 14 days’ police custody.

Satyajit Banerjee, the deputy inspector-general of police, Malda range, termed the arrest of Malkhan, said to be the third in the KLO’s pecking order, a “major breakthrough before the Lok Sabha polls”.

He said Malkhan, whose real name is Madhab Mondal and who oversees the KLO’s operations in north Bengal, had been trained in the jungles of Bhutan in 2000.

“Malkhan was also behind a grenade blast at Gajole bus stand on June 16. There are cases of extortion, abduction and fake currency smuggling against him,” the officer said at a news conference.

A police source said Malkhan had admitted to his involvement in the bus firing. “He said the owner of the bus had rebuffed an extortion bid. Malkhan said he used to give half the money he extorted from businessmen to the KLO. He used to frequently go to Bangladesh, Nepal and Bhutan,” the source said.