Bankishol/Midnapore, Oct. 15: A day after six Eastern Frontier Rifles jawans were blown up in the Naxalite-infested forests of Bankishol, a combing operation began in earnest.
At least 22 people were detained for interrogation from Bankishol and neighbouring Dumurgeria and Benachapra. Seven police station areas in West Midnapore, Bankura and Purulia have been put on alert.
Naxalites are said to be active in all three districts. In the West Midnapore forest, the rebels apparently lured security forces into a trap yesterday with a false tip-off.
Director-general of police Shyamal Dutta will visit Bankishol tomorrow under instruction from chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee.
The dead jawans were given guards of honour at the Midnapore police lines and the EFR headquarters at Salua near Kharagpur.
The security establishment at the district headquarters seemed striving to come to grips with the loss even as the dead were cremated tonight. 'Please don't ask questions now,' pleaded West Midnapore police chief Vineet Kumar Goyel.
The site, where the alleged People's War guerrillas triggered three landmines with remote-controlled detonators, looked bloody with the earth caked with dry blood and red ants crawling on them. Shredded EFR uniform, boots and torn flesh were strewn along with remnants of the landmine ' metal pieces, wires and chargers in holes in the ground.
The explosives, suspected to have been smuggled from coal mines in Jharkhand, were packed in lunch box-like metal containers, made water-proof with a thick covering of a synthetic adhesive.
The police said they were planted less than week ago. 'We went on a raid in the area a week ago and had to cross the bridge,' said Anil Kumar, the special inspector-general of police, Midnapore range. He also demanded 'more sophisticated arms to deal with the People's War guerrillas'.
Late this evening, wives of EFR jawans staged a demonstration at the force headquarters saying their husbands were at risk on the rebel turf because of dated weapons and demanding 'modern arms' with more teeth for them.