Ranchi, Oct. 18: In a dramatic encounter this morning, Khunti police, led and guided by hundreds of villagers, gunned down four dreaded criminals and recovered a cache of arms and ammunition.
The armed miscreants, the police claimed, had links with the Maoist Communist Centre from which they had recently broken away. They had also killed the local MCC commander, proclaiming themselves to be the “real MCC”.
At least six members of the group, however, escaped.
The group broke into the house of Vijay Sahu, owner of a roadside hotel in Bundu, last night and left with cash and valuables. The same set of extremists, the police said, had robbed Sahu’s hotel three weeks ago.
Khunti deputy superintendent of police M.S. Bari said he received information around 1 am and within an hour managed to mobilise policemen from different police stations, including Bundu, Tamar, Namkum and even Hatia.
Swift action by the police and the impressive show of strength, claimed Bari, prompted villagers to join the hunt. The villagers were reportedly aggrieved by frequent extortions by the armed group and their endless demands for food and shelter.
Hundreds of them are said to have led the police to possible hideouts of the criminals. The cat-and-mouse game continued throughout the night and in the morning. At 8.30 am, the group was spotted near a dam in Serendih forest, 22 km from Khunti and at the junction of Bundu, Namkum and Hatia.
At least 10 armed extremists, led by one Lukas Horo, opened fire when they spotted the police.
Police fired 17 rounds before the group abandoned their dead colleagues and fled. Three of the deceased have been identified as Horo, Sundar Munda and Ganesh Munda. The identity of the fourth person is yet to be established. Two double-barrel guns, a single-barrel gun, two countrymade guns, a pistol, a Chinese revolver and two dozen live cartridges were recovered.
The police claim that the gang had committed at least five dacoities in the past 10 days. Horo was apparently the leader of the group and had recently bumped off the local “MCC commander” and assumed leadership of the breakaway group.
Two new members, Mahendra Munda and Etwa Munda, were also earlier with the MCC. They had connived with Horo, the DSP claimed, in killing the area commander and were wanted in over 20 criminal cases.
The encounter has helped boost the morale of the police, which has been at a low since the daring MCC attack on policemen near Hazaribagh on Tuesday. Six policemen were injured at Demotand and their firearms taken away by the extremists.