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Deaths feared in poll ambush

April 24: At least seven members of a polling team are feared killed in tribal heartland Dumka in a suspected Maoist ambush this evening, marring the otherwise almost blemish-free polls in Jharkhand.

Around 50 Maoists apparently triggered a landmine blast and opened fire at a mini-bus ferrying a polling party at Asana village, 40km from the district headquarters, at 4.30pm.

The personnel, who included armed police and poll officials, were returning from booth No. 33 in Sarsajore village. They had travelled only 2km when they were attacked. There is no word yet on the fate of the EVMs they were bringing back.

Jharkhand home secretary N.N. Pandey confirmed the attack. “Special branch officers have said five policemen and two poll personnel have been killed. Two have been admitted to hospital with injuries,” Pandey said.

Chief minister Hemant Soren, speaking to a television channel in Dumka, said he wanted to rush to the spot but added it might hinder security operations. “I am in touch with police and I know that the CRPF has reached there. But the names of the dead and injured are yet to be confirmed,” he said.

IG (provisions) and police spokesperson Anurag Gupta said: “I can’t confirm the figure. Reports of casualties are coming in. The area is remote. Three ambulances have been pressed into service. It seems CRPF personnel had an encounter with Maoists.”

Just before the attack, poll officials across Dumka were tabulating the projected poll turnout.

Estimates put the figure at 64 per cent, the encouraging number no doubt the fallout of the high-octane contest between Shibu Soren and Babulal Marandi amid talk of a Narendra Modi wave.

The third round of polls in the state gave an overall 13 point rise to voting figures with a projected poll per cent of 63 (figures till 5pm). In 2009, the overall percentage was 50.97.

Kokrajhar violence

A police constable was killed and three persons were injured when a mob vandalised a polling station in Kokrajhar Lok Sabha constituency in Assam today.

Sources said that after rumours spread about a glitch in the EVM in a booth at Harabangha in Gossaigaon subdivision in Kokrajhar, some voters demanded to see the machine. When the officials refused, the protesters damaged the EVM and vandalised the polling station. The police tried to intervene but the protesters attacked them and killed constable Pinku Rahang.