The travel route of the BSF convoy that was ambushed on a National Highway in Koraput district of Orissa on Tuesday was known to the Maoists although the local police and the three BSF units in Koraput did not know about it. Four BSF personnel were killed and three were injured when a group of 25-30 Maoists triggered a powerful landmine blast on a culvert on NH-26 near Pottangi area.
Senior police sources said that the BSF team from 161 Battalion,which was travelling from Balimela in Malkangiri district to Vishakhapatnam via Koraput,did not inform the local police about their exact route. “When they came under fire,we got frantic calls for reinforcements. But we were confused about their whereabouts as no one had informed us,” said a police officer.
“When we asked the three BSF units stationed in Koraput,even they had no idea about the passage. Though the BSF personnel kept on saying Sunabeda over phone,this was not enough for us to send reinforcements.”
The district SP was in nearby Sunabeda,but by the time he reached,the BSF personnel had fought back and forced the rebels to retreat. Officials said the BSF convoy also did not have a road opening party,perhaps thinking Pottangi was safe.
Police sources who surveyed the spot soon after the blast said the Maoists had planted the 25-30 kg landmine on the culvert Monday night. Earlier in the day,CRPF’s additional DG (training) Vivek Dube had taken the same road to Orissa. “There were a number of CRPF and local policemen in that area. So it is unlikely that the Maoists would have been there during day time as there is not much vegetation which can be used as a cover by them,” said another police officer.
“Had the Maoists been there Monday morning,we would have got information of some movement. We guess,the Maoists came at night,fitted the landmine and waited for the BSF convoy to pass. Had the BSF convoy delayed their travel by a few more hours,the Maoists may have had to call off their plans as local villagers would have seen them,” said the officer.
According to initial investigations,Maoist divisional commander Dumbri alias Mari Sanjiv may have led the team of rebels. The police have detained five villagers and were investigating their role. Meanwhile,the bodies of the slain BSF men were flown to Mumbai,from where they would be taken to their native villages in Punjab,Himachal Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh.