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Joint hunt for rebels

Ranchi, April 21: Jharkhand police and their Bihar counterparts have launched a joint search operation in jungles of Hariharganj, Palamau district, amid rumours that over half a dozen villagers went missing following a fierce gun battle between two rebel outfits yesterday.

However, police rejected suggestions that the rebels might have abducted the villagers, and said efforts would continue to frustrate any attempt by outlawed outfits to regroup in Palamau district, which recently witnessed a peaceful polling amidst tight security arrangements.

Yesterday, CPI(Maoist) rebels and members of the Tritiya Prastuti Committee (TPC), a breakaway faction of the Maoists, exchanged fires at Kulahaia village in Hariharganj, bordering Aurangabad district of Bihar, in what appeared to be a clash for supremacy in the area.

While Niteshji led the Maoists, Nishantji spearheaded the TPC squad in the vicious fight that began around 1pm and continued for about three hours.

Around 4pm, Jharkhand and Bihar police launched a joint operation, forcing the rebels of both outfits to disappear in dense forests.

The Maoists torched a motorcycle and an SUV and claimed to have gunned down at least four TPC rebels, before fleeing the area.

But, police have not found any body so far.

Also, sources said over half a dozen male members of the village were missing since yesterday. But the police said they fled their homes to avoid interrogations.

“Usually, in the Naxalite-affected areas, villagers flee their homes whenever such type of incidents take place. They don’t want to speak to police fearing rebels’ ire,” superintendent of police (Palamau) Y.S. Ramesh said.

He added the owners of the two vehicles that were torched yesterday also did not come forward.

“It was simply a battle for supremacy between two rebel outfits. We are going to chase them away,” the SP claimed.

He added these rebel groups were flushed out of the area through sustained efforts in view of the Lok Sabha elections.

“The polls were peaceful in rebel-hit Palamau and Chatra constituencies, in particular. Now, the rebels have begun fresh initiatives to regain their lost ground,” Ramesh added.

State’s director general of police Rajeev Kumar, who is keeping tabs on the on-goings, said Maoists and TPC rebels had “neutralised” each other in Chatra and Palamau.

“In the changed scenario, rebels will either have to surrender or stay prepared to face the music. The elections have so far been peaceful in the Naxalite-affected areas in the state mainly because of our sustained efforts,” he claimed.