Maoist kid soldiers draw blood

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By OUR CORRESPONDENT in Midnapore
  • Published 15.09.09
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Midnapore, Sept. 14: Boys with guns but hardly any facial hair shot dead a local CPM leader this morning at Salboni near Lalgarh, with horrified villagers saying some of the attackers looked “as young as 14”.

Maoist sources confirmed police claims that they had introduced the child soldier — widely used by the Tamil Tigers, Khmer Rouge and African militias — into Bengal’s western theatre of conflict.

Officers said some 200 young boys were part of the “local action squad” the rebels had raised since entering Lalgarh 10 months ago, and had been trained to use firearms and set off improvised explosive devices.

When 10 of them walked into Burisole from a nearby forest around 9am, the villagers thought they had come to participate in a sports tournament. The oldest among the boys was hardly 17.

“I would never have imagined that boys so young could be Maoist killers,” said villager Anil Mahato. “They barely had any facial hair. I thought they had come for the foot tennis (soccer with a tennis ball, a popular local sport) tournament being held nearby.”

But the boys headed for the cigarette and betel shop of Sambhu Mahato, 40, the CPM branch committee secretary.

“Seven of them stood at a distance while three walked to the shop. One of them pulled out a revolver from under his shirt and shot Sambhu kaka behind his right ear,” said Jalad Mahato, 33, who was sipping tea at a tea stall across the road.

“They were so young we thought we would be able to overpower them and took a few steps forward.”

But the seven other boys whipped out revolvers and pipe guns and aimed them at the villagers. “They told us to quietly go home, and we obeyed,” Jalad said.

The boys vanished into the forest from where, 15 minutes later, came the sound of a few shots. An officer later said the boys had chased and shot twice at a CPM supporter, Anath Mahato, who was cutting grass for his cattle, but he escaped.

West Midnapore superintendent of police Manoj Verma said all the child soldiers were local boys. The Maoists had recruited them from Salboni, Binpur, Goaltore and Lalgarh, another officer said.

“Some 200 of them should now be in the rebels’ forest camps. They are difficult to identify because they don’t have a police record,” the officer said.

Suspected Maoists shot dead a second CPM leader inside a school in Lalgarh around noon as his stunned students looked on. Teacher Kartick Mahato, 36, of Barajamda village was a CPM branch committee member.

The police said the killings were in retaliation for the resistance by some villagers, who have killed two Maoists. The rebels have killed nine CPM supporters in the district this month.