Eyewitnesses said the hold-up took place around 4 pm near Uduabag Square, 5km from the district headquarters. As the van reached the square, a small truck from the opposite direction obstructed its path while another following the van blocked it from behind.
Within seconds, Maoists hiding in nearby bushes and packed in the truck chasing the van opened fire on the cops escorting the prisoners.
In the meticulously executed operation, the Maoists killed two policemen while a prisoner and the van driver died in the crossfire. All senior police officers of the district rushed to the spot — 120km from Ranchi — within half an hour but the Maoists, numbering more than 30 including several women, fled with their released comrades by then. “So far, we know of eight naxal prisoners fleeing from the van,” Jharkhand DGP GS Rath told HT.