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Malkhan in net fortnight after slip

Malda, April 13: A Malda police special investigation team early today caught KLO leader Malkhan Singh, wanted for the firing attack on a bus in the district last year, the arrest coming about a fortnight after the militant gave cops the slip.

Malkhan, whose real name is Madhab Mondal, was arrested around 2am in a wooded area in Jamalpur, nearly 40km from Malda town.

“The arrest was made around 2am last night by a special team from Habibpur and Bamungola police stations. The team had prior information that Malkhan Singh would be at a meeting with other KLO operatives there. The assault rifle found on him, HK-33, is a sophisticated German firearm. There were two magazines with 112 rounds of live ammunition. The police team also seized fake Indian currency with a face value of Rs 85,500 and genuine Indian notes of Rs 40,000 from him,” said deputy inspector-general, Malda range, Satyajit Banerjee.

After a medical check-up, Malkhan was produced in the chief judicial magistrate’s court. He was remanded in 14 days’ police custody.

“The arrest is a major breakthrough ahead of the Lok Sabha polls,” Banerjee said.

“We are going to reward the police officers who led the investigation and captured the militant. The arrested KLO militant has an injury on his right knee that he suffered while giving the police the slip in Gajole a few weeks ago. We took him to the rural hospital in Bulbulchandi for a medical check-up. The court has granted 14 days’ police remand.”

The DIG said the arrested militant had been trained in the Bhutan jungles in 2000. “He had been put in charge of a KLO battalion. He used to operate out of Bamungola. He is the prime accused in the December 27, 2013, shooting at a private bus in Kalipur More in Habibpur. He is also wanted in the murder of BJP leader, Nripen Barman, in June 25 last year. Malkhan Singh was responsible for a grenade blast that took place on June 16 last year at Gajole bus stand. Besides, there are cases of extortion, abduction and fake currency smuggling against him,” Banerjee said.

Police sources said that last night, after the special team got information that Malkhan would go to the wooded area in Jamalpur, a team of 12 policemen, led by Moazzem Hossain, inspector-in-charge of Habibpur police station, and Aloke Mitra, the officer-in-charge of Bamungola police station, reached Jamalpur and waited for Malkhan to appear.

“Around 2am, they spotted him walking alone through the woods and circled him. Malkhan was alone and was arrested without a shot being fired,” a police source said.

On March 30, a team of around 30 Bengal police and Sashastra Seema Bal jawans intercepted Malkhan in Gajole, about 40km from Malda town, but Malkhan escaped. Sources in Malda police said the team spotted Malkhan in a village around 9.30pm and intercepted him. Malkhan fired at the policemen, and they returned fire. But in the dark, the militant escaped.

The sources said after the arrest, Malkhan was taken to the Habibpur police station where jawans of the Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB) threw a security ring. Malda police superintendent Rupesh Kumar went to Habibpur police station and interrogated Malkhan.

“Malkhan has told interrogators that he had fired at the bus on December 27 last year as the owner of the vehicle had refused to pay money that he had demanded. The grenade blast in Gajole was done to create terror among the people. He has said he used to give half the money he extorted from businessmen to the KLO. He was a frequent visitor to Bangladesh, Nepal and Bhutan. He was in touch with KLO chief Jeevan Singh. After the recent arrest of KLO militants like Tom Adhikary, Malkhan had been put in charge of north Bengal operations of the outfit,” the police source said.

The sources said Malkhan’s arrest could reveal the whereabouts of Jeevan Singh.

“We are hopeful that we will get leads on the whereabouts of Jeevan Singh. The German assault rifle found on him is used by Bodo militants. He has told the police that he had procured the rifle from a militant outfit in Assam one-and-a-half years ago,” the source said.