SEVEN CHHATTISGARH police personnel were killed after a powerful IED (improvised explosive device) planted by Maoists hit their vehicle in Dantewada on Sunday.
The attack comes two days before Chief Minister Raman Singh’s scheduled visit to Bacheli, less than 20 km from Sunday’s blast site, as part of his “Vikas Yatra” tour throughout the state. Officials said Singh would go ahead with his visit.
Senior police officers told The Indian Express that the blast took place between 11.15 am and 11.30 am.
“The vehicle that the seven personnel were travelling in got hit by an IED on Kirandul Cholnar road. Initially, five personnel were killed and two injured. While one of the injured succumbed to injuries soon after, another died as he was being rushed to Raipur for treatment,” said P Sundar Raj, DIG, Anti-Naxal Operations.
Sources in the Dantewada administration said the seven personnel were returning after providing security to trucks carrying construction material for roads being built in the Aranpur Kondasawli sector and Kirandul Palnar sector. “They were returning from the camps towards Kirandul, when their vehicle was attacked. After the blast, the Maoists took away weapons like INSAS rifles and AK-47s that the personnel were carrying. While three of the security personnel were from the Chhattisgarh Armed Force, four were from the Dantewada district police,” a senior officer said.
Investigators who visited the blast site said that prima facie, it was a “command IED” that was perhaps packing over 40 kg of explosives. Senior police officers said the IED could have been over a year old.
“The vehicle that the personnel were travelling in was completely mangled when we found it. It had been split into two, both sections of the vehicle lying at least 50 metres apart, and both had fallen into a drain that runs under the road. One of the floor mats of the vehicle was hanging on the trees overhead, indicating how powerful the IED must have been,” said a police officer.
The stretch where the IED was planted had been made a “black top” road over the last year, with construction on the stretch completed in January. “Normally an IED is planted on a road that is under construction, where a foxhole can be made under the mud. The drain would have helped to dig a hole under the road. But we found a wire that was 90 metres long which had undergrowth on it, making it difficult to spot. The wire led us to a tree in the forest, which had small markings — an old Maoist tactic. More details will emerge after a detailed examination,” said a senior officer.
Police officers told The Indian Express that while road-opening parties were still inside the jungles closer to where the construction activities were taking place, the seven police personnel had chosen to drive back to their camps. “They were perhaps misled by the fact that black top roads are harder to target, and this sector in Dantewada has been relatively peaceful over the past few years… there is regular vehicular traffic,” a senior officer said.
The attack came on a day when Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh was in the state — he was in Ambikapur district in North Chhattisgarh to attend the CRPF passing out parade on Monday.
“This is a cowardly act, This proves that Maoists don’t want development and basic facilities to reach the people of the district and Adivasis,” Chief Minister Raman Singh said.
The Chhattisgarh Congress, led by PCC president Bhupesh Baghel and Leader of Opposition T S Singhdeo, offered condolences to the families of the victims, but said the “recurring attacks proved that the BJP government has lost control over the Naxal situation.”
In March, nine CRPF men were killed after an IED targeted their Mine Protected Vehicle (MPV) in Kistaram area of Sukma.