Raipur, March 25: Mistaking a private jeep for a police vehicle, Maoists blew it up last night killing 13 people near a Chhattisgarh village, about 250 km southwest of capital Raipur.
Naxalites had on February 28 blown up a truck in the state’s Dantewada district, mistaking the passengers for members of the Salwa Judum, a government-backed body of anti-Maoist activists. They later apologised for the operation that killed 32 villagers returning from a peace rally.
Last night’s landmine attack near Pakhanjore in Kanker district, which lifted the jeep 20 feet in the air before blowing it to pieces, left four of its 17 occupants severely injured. The impact hurled the engine 200 feet away and left bodies and limbs scattered over a radius of 100 feet.
The 9 pm blast was the second major Maoist operation of the day. In the morning, guerrillas had attacked a sub-jail in Orissa’s R. Udaygiri town, freeing some 40 prisoners, killing three policemen, looting ammunition and taking the jailer and the officer-in-charge of the police station hostage.
Last night’s victims, mostly traders and porters, were returning from the weekly market at Sangham village, Kanker superintendent of police Pradeep Gupta said. Most of them were Bangladeshi refugees from the resettlement colony in Pakhanjore.
As the jeep reached a spot between Ghoragaon and Paralkote village, the rebels set off the blast.
The dead and the injured lay there through the night before the police arrived in the morning. The injured were shifted to the Pakhanjore government hospital, from where three were sent to Raipur Medical College Hospital in a critical condition.
Villagers protesting against the government’s failure to protect them gheraoed home minister Ramvichar Netam and state police chief .P. Rathor after they arrived in a helicopter. They later freed the visitors but wouldn’t let the minister board his official car, forcing him to walk a kilometre from the helipad to the government rest house.
Netam announced a compensation of Rs 2 lakh and a job for each bereaved family.
The dead have been identified as Gobindo Nandi, Arun Biswas, Kalachand Bhavak, Bipul Das, Sudhanshu Kundu, Bishnu De, Tapan Samaddar, Bipul Dutta, Kiran Bagchi, Manoj, Rajak Esabeda, Pradeep Shah and Wajeed Khan.
The government recorded a minor success against the Maoists this morning with the Nagaland Armed Police gunning down three rebels in Bijapur district.
More than 10 other guerrillas were injured in the 5 am gun battle that took place when the policemen were ambushed, sources said.