Nishigunj (Cooch Behar), Sept. 21: Terror struck this busy market town last evening when suspected Kamtapur Liberation Organisation militants abducted a young merchant and left in a hail of automatic fire, killing three and seriously injuring five.
A day after the incident, Cooch Behar police superintendent Praveen Kumar claimed before reporters that investigators had traced the route that the militants had taken to arrive and escape with hardware merchant Gopal Debnath, 27.
“We strongly believe that this is the work of the Kamtapur Liberation Organisation (KLO). We have recovered a magazine that can hold 30 rounds and 23 rounds of spent ammunition,” Kumar said at the Mathabhanga police station this morning. He added that combing operations were on across the district.
“We have alerted the Border Security Force and asked them to keep special vigil along the enclaves as well,” said district magistrate Chandan Sinha.
While the town was yet to recover from the shock and fear after the militant strike, the bodies of Mehboob Ali, 65, Lakshman Das, 50, and Sukumar Mitra, 46, were brought from Maharaja Jitendranarayan Hospital in Cooch Behar for last rites. The CPM and the Trinamul Congress had called a 12-hour bandh here.
Biswajit Dey, 28, a worker in Debnath’s hardware store, is still numb with shock after witnessing the violence that unfolded before his eyes around 6.30 pm yesterday. “We were doing brisk business like any other Saturday evening when two men barged into the shop and tried to drag the owner out,” Dey recalled.
He said Debnath managed to wriggle out of the clutches of one of his abductors but he was being forced outside where two motorcycles were parked and a third armed man stood on guard.
“Sukumarda, who worked with us, charged at the two men. One of them whipped out a black gun and fired at him. I ducked under the counter,” Dey said.
Outside, the sudden burst of gunfire forced shop-owners to down shutters while customers began running around aimlessly, not knowing where the sound of gunfire had come from.
Das was buying dry fish from a stall when a hail of bullets struck him down. “Right in front of my eyes the man was mowed down,” said Arati Barman, who runs the shop.
The volley of automatic fire hit Jogendrachandra Mondol, Sudip Barman, Khagendradeb Singha, Deepak Burman, Hussain Ali and Mehboob Ali. They were taken to the Cooch Behar hospital, where Mehboob Ali died this morning. Singha, who sustained serious wounds, is battling for survival at North Bengal Medical College Hospital in Siliguri. One of Hussain Ali’s legs had to be amputated.
“We had repeatedly demanded a police outpost here but no one listened to us,” said Sunil Kumar Debnath, a trader.