Daltonganj, Jan. 8: A policeman died and five were injured this morning when a landmine, planted by suspected Maoist Communist Centre (MCC) extremists, exploded near Mitar village in Palamau district.
Najmul Huda, a homeguard driver of Tarhasi outpost died on the spot. Two jawans of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) and three of the Jharkhand Armed Police (JAP) were rushed to Sadar Hospital. Palamau civil surgeon R.P. Sinha said the injured were out of danger.
The blast occurred during a joint CRPF-armed police patrol to clear the area of landmines. Yesterday, two mines of 30 kg each were retrieved from the Manatu area during the mine clearance drive.
According to Garwah superintendent of police Anurag Gupta — standing in for his Palamau counterpart Anil Palta, who is on leave — today’s patrol team started at 4.30 am from Panki police station after a tip-off on extremists camping in a nearby village.
“The objective was to counter the extremists. Besides the CRPF and the JAP, the patrol included all the policemen from Patan, Rajhara and Tarhasi police stations,” Gupta said.
As the patrol covered a stretch of 13 km on foot, local guide Birendra Singh saw three armed men moving about in the nearby forest.
“The men fired at Singh, who was hit in the stomach,” Gupta said. “The policemen then took position and lobbed handgrenades before opening fire.”
Around the same time — it was said to be 11 am — a landmine went off and threw the police jeep, with Huda at the wheel, into the air, Gupta said. Till reports last came in, an encounter was on between the police and the extremists.
CRPF company commander Sarifuddin said: “The Naxalites have come face-to-face with us. Either we win or they win.”
According to Sarifuddin, the blast occurred around 9.30 am.