Salboni (West Midnapore), Nov. 27: Almost two months after the fatal Bandwan blast in Purulia, another police team today ran into twin explosions set off by suspected People’s War activists but escaped with injuries.
Ten people were hurt when the jeep the police team was travelling in hurtled into the four-foot-deep crater, about six feet in diameter, gouged out by the simultaneous explosions around 12.15 pm at Birghosa, about 175 km from Calcutta.
Five policemen, the driver and four others who were picked up for interrogation escaped death as the blasts occurred seconds before the vehicle passed over the spot. The injured were taken to a health centre in Salboni. Two of them were referred to the Midnapore district hospital.
The police team from the Pirakata outpost was returning after a raid on Birbhanpur village in search of People’s War members. The force was led by inspector-in-charge of the outpost Amarjit Biswas.
“We were headed to our outpost after the raid when we were rocked by the powerful double explosions. Before the driver could realise anything, the jeep plunged into the huge crater,” Biswas said.
When they limped out of the jeep, the suspected Naxalites waiting on the other side of the crater opened fire. The police retaliated. “We fired about 20 rounds. The militants returned seven to eight rounds,” a police official said.
The rebels later disappeared into a nearby forest. The police suspect at least one of them suffered a bullet wound.
District superintendent of police Praveen Kumar, who visited the spot, said a 100-foot wire used to detonate the explosives was found near the crater.
“We are certain the blast was set off by People’s War rebels and the wire was used to detonate the explosive buried under the kuccha road that runs over an embankment of the irrigation canal,” he said.
Today’s explosions triggered memories of the landmine blast in Bandwan on October 11 that killed the officer-in-charge of the police station there, Nilmadhab Das.
The latest explosions have confirmed the suspicion of the police that People’s War members are active in the area. “The spot where the explosion took place is 9 km from the village we raided and we are now certain there are active Naxalites in the area,” an official said.
The police are now trying to find out when the explosives were planted. “We travelled by the same road when we set out for the raid. There are two possibilities. Either the militants let us pass over the explosives or they planted the explosives after we went past the area. In either case, they knew that a police team was visiting the area. That indicates the rebels have an active intelligence network, which is alarming,” an official said.
A large force comprising members of the Eastern Frontier Rifles, the Special Combat Force and the armed police has been despatched and the forest is being combed.