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Maoists raid police station: Two killed, set condition for releasing abducted officer, release of women cadres

Posted by Admin on October 21, 2009

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Rebels kill cops in police station, kidnap OC and loot bank NARESH JANA

Sankrail (West Midnapore), Oct. 20: Maoists led by a young woman today launched their most audacious strike in Bengal in years, riding bikes to a police station, killing two officers and taking the officer-in-charge hostage while robbing a nearby bank.

The 40-minute afternoon attack in West Midnapore’s Sankrail, just 70km from Midnapore town where state police chief Bhupinder Singh was camping, was marked by careful planning but capricious killings.

The rebels shot two sub-inspectors dead with their automatic weapons but spared a third who fell at their feet, letting him go after making him do squats holding his ears. At the bank where they met no resistance, they fired at the unarmed cashier, who somehow ducked and saved himself.

Officer-in-charge Atindranath Dutta, 35, whose quarters are bang opposite the police station, was grabbed as he stepped out to see what was happening. The ex-student of Liluah Don Bosco was blindfolded and taken away on a bike, sandwiched between two Maoists, his family learning about the abduction on TV.

21sankrail.jpgMaoist leader Kishenji told a TV channel tonight that all women Maoist cadres should be released in exchange for Dutta’s freedom. “You go and give Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee this message,” he told Dutta’s wife. “Your husband is fine; we have given him the status of a prisoner of war.”

Earlier, Kishenji had told The Telegraph the killings were in retaliation for the security forces’ operation in Lalgarh. “We also want to pass on the message that we are ready for any new offensive, like the one the Centre is planning.”

A poster the rebels left behind suggested an additional motive: pressuring the government to release Chhatradhar Mahato, leader of the People’s Committee Against Police Atrocities.

The attacks came on a day Prime Minister Manmohan Singh called for a more calibrated strategy in the anti-Maoist offensive, his government hinting at making a distinction between insurgents who want to secede from India and those who, like the Naxalites, do not. Delhi also reaffirmed it was open to talks with the Maoists if they surrendered arms.

Just this morning, Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee had told a cabinet core committee his government might need to be “harsh” on the Maoists. When a grim chief minister returned to his office around 4pm after lunch, he was asked about the Sankrail attack and said: “Yes, I am looking into the matter.”

As the CPM raised the “Mamata-Maoist nexus” pitch, the railway minister neither condemned the killings nor targeted the government for its failure to deal with the Maoists. She said she was “shocked and hurt (shokahata ebong marmahata)”.

The Maoists had booby-trapped the road on both sides of the police station and planted an improvised bomb also on NH-6, the police said.

21oc2.jpgVillagers said 22 Maoists riding 11 motorcycles had appeared out of the nearby Durgahuri forest around 1.20pm and divided into two groups on reaching the police station (see graphic). Each Maoist who entered the police station carried at least two weapons.

“They were led by a woman in her early 20s, wearing salwar-kameez. She barked instructions at the others,” said Sukumar Ghosh, a constable who was bathing at a well on the premises with three colleagues.

Ghosh “shivered in fear” as he saw the woman gun down sub-inspector Dibakar Bhattacharjee, 58, who was sitting at his table wearing a lungi and a shirt. In the next room, sub-inspector Swapan Roy, also in a lungi, was shot as he cowered under a table.

In the adjoining computer room, assistant sub-inspector Sukhendu Masanto fell at the rebels’ feet. “They pulled me up by my hair and asked where the arms were stocked,” Masanto said.

He led them to a locked trunk and a wooden box where six .303 rifles and five pistols had been kept. The Maoists broke it open with a rifle butt and grabbed the weapons.

Next, at the SBI branch 20 metres away, the rebels shot at Sujit Das at his teller’s counter while the four other bank employees trembled in a corner. Das, who escaped unhurt, was made to open the vault and the rebels cleaned out the cash, said to be about Rs 9.27 lakh.

The raiders grabbed two Hero Honda motorcycles from the police station and, around 2pm, sped off towards the forests with their hostage in a convoy of 13 bikes.

“They were shouting that they were taking our baro babu (big officer) along with them and dared anyone to stop them,” said pan seller Chandan Sen.

None dared enter the police station for over two hours till journalists almost forced Masanto to go in around 4.15pm. Only then was it discovered that Roy too had been killed — Masanto had all along been insisting that the Maoists had taken the sub-inspector with them as well.

“We have increased our forces there to provide more security to the people,” chief secretary Asok Mohan Chakrabarti said. “Our main concern is to trace the kidnapped officer and arrest the criminals,” he added, using a word rarely employed in the state to describe Naxalites. TT

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