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'Biggest' anti-Maoist operation - 1000 cops close in on rebel den but manage to arrest only three

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  • Published 24.11.11

Nov. 23: Nearly 1,000 security personnel raided a West Midnapore village in a night-long operation after receiving information that two rebel action squad leaders were camping there, the offensive dubbed by police the “biggest” after the Mamata Banerjee government came to power.

Although the forces could not find Bikash and Suchitra in Lalboni village in Binpur police station area, three suspected Maoists who were allegedly involved in the attack on the Eastern Frontier Rifles camp in Shilda in February last year that killed 24 jawans were arrested.

“This is the biggest anti-Maoist operation since the new government assumed charge. Such a large number of security personnel were not involved in any operation in the past few months,” an officer said.

The police said the security forces received a tip-off last night that Bikash and Suchitra, who have been accused in several murder cases, the Shilda massacre and the abduction of Sankrail police station officer in charge Atindranath Dutta in 2009, were camping in Lalboni, near Kushboni forest.

“We decided to cordon off the village at night,” the officer said.

“Around 1,000 central and state police personnel led by West Midnapore police chief Praveen Tripathi started proceeding towards Lalboni through Kushboni forest around midnight. But suddenly, bullets started flying at us. We retaliated but as we could not see who were firing because of the trees, we decided to retreat for some time,” he said.

The forces, drawn from camps in Jhargram, Binpur and Belpahari, started proceeding once the firing stopped after about 45 minutes. “We cordoned off Lalboni but did not enter the village at night to avoid civilian casualties. We had been given strict instructions that no innocent villager should be injured in the offensive,” the officer said.

But when the forces entered the village after daybreak, Bikash and Suchitra could not be found. “We searched adjoining hamlets such as Kusumdanga to see if any senior Maoist leader was holed up there but could not find any. The Maoist leaders may have escaped before we cordoned off Lalboni,” the officer said.

“We searched all the houses in Lalboni and arrested three suspected Maoists — Prasenjit, Kanai and Guntu. They were part of the Maoist squad that had attacked the Shilda camp. No weapons were found on them,” he said. Some sticks were found on the courtyards of the houses from which they were arrested.

A CRPF officer said the “nature of the firing” suggested that top Maoist leaders could have been present in Lalboni. “The bullets were fired from automatic firearms such as AK-47s and Insas,” he said.

A few villagers, including a woman, were picked up for questioning. The police said the search operation would continue tonight.

Asked about the offensive, home secretary G.D. Gautama said at Writers’ Buildings: “Operations have been continuing in Jungle Mahal.” He refused comment when asked if the Maoist leaders had given the police the slip.