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Maoist hit on cops under army nose

Siliguri, Sept. 17: Two policemen, one of them an officer-in-charge, were gunned down by Maoist guerrillas near the bustling market of Dhulabari in Nepal, seven km from the border at Panitanki, yesterday evening.

The car-borne rebels struck around dusk (6.30 pm IST) when Vinod Dewan, in-charge of the Dhulabari (Nepal) police station, and head constable Prem Rai were returning to the Royal Nepal Army (RNA) outpost in Charali after routine patrol duty.

The latest attack on security forces in the kingdom has set off an alarm as the hit took place a whisker away from the military camp. The choice of the spot is worrying security officers of both countries. RNA personnel often patrol the stretch of road between Mechinagar and Charali and that is where the Maoists preferred to strike.

'We are leaving nothing to chance and have demanded extra forces to combat the Nepal Maoists,' said a senior Sashastra Suraksha Bal (SSB) officer at the force's Ranidanaga sector headquarters off Siliguri.

Security agencies on both sides of the border believe that the attack was in retaliation to the killing of two Maoist rebels by the RNA in Kakarvitta a few days ago.

Confirming the news, Darjeeling superintendent of police Rajeev Mishra said: 'We have been intimated about last evening's encounter and the killing of two policemen by the Maoist guerrillas by our counterparts in Nepal.'

'We have accordingly altered members of our security force since the Maoists have once again struck dangerously close to Indian territory. Sharing of intelligence with the SSB has also been intensified,' Mishra added.

This is the second time in less than a month that the Maoists have struck near Indian territory. On September 7, the rebels had shot dead two RNA personnel in Kakarvitta.

Indian police sources said the extremists, numbering around six, trailed the policemen, who were travelling on a motorcycle. Once they reached a relatively deserted stretch between Mechinagar and Charali in Jhapa district, the Maoists opened fire from their automatic guns, killing the policemen on the spot.

A police officer said a 9 mm pistol and a cellphone, which the policemen were carrying, were seized by the rebels.

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