Seven police personnel were killed and three others injured in a powerful landmine blast triggered by Maoist rebels in Gadchiroli district of Maharashtra on Sunday morning in the first major strike by the banned outfit in the state this year.
The attack came a day after Gadchiroli police arrested Delhi University professor GN Saibaba for his alleged links with Maoists.
The incident occurred at around 9.40 am near Murmuri village under Chamorshi tahsil -- some 350 km from here -- when a convoy of eight police vans with C-60 jawans, an elite anti-Maoist squad, was returning from a nearby jungle after a routine anti-Maoist operation.
After one of the police vans blew up, the lurking Maoists opened indiscriminate fire. The police retaliated and the heavy exchange of fire continued for over half an hour.
Unable to sustain the strong police offensive and anticipating additional police forces reaching there, the Red rebels fled into the dense jungles.
Talking to Hindustan Times, Ravindra Kadam, the inspector general of police (IGP), Nagpur range, informed that the injured jawans were airlifted to Nagpur and additional reinforcements of security personnel have been sent. Senior police personnel have also rushed to the spot.
The police jawans who were killed in the landmine blast include: Tripuat Alam, Sunil Madavi, Durudhon Naktode, Roshan Dhambhare, Suvash Kumre, S Mundhe (driver of the vehicle) and Deepak Diwte. Among the injured jawans, the condition of Hemant Bansod and Pankaj Sidam are reported to be very serious.
"All the bodies have been brought to the police headquarters at Gadchiroli. The area has been sealed and combing operation by a joint team of state police and CRPF is on," said Kadam.
Police sources said Saibaba was booked in an offence by Aheri police in the district last year following a search and seizure operation at his residence in Delhi.
It yielded several incriminating documents and records that helped police establish his connection with the central committee of the CPI (Maoist).
An English teacher from Ramlal Anand College in Delhi, Saibaba, had come under scanner of Gadchiroli police following the arrests of Hem Mishra and Prashant Rahi, who used to work as couriers of left-wing extremists. It was in their interrogation that Saibaba's role came to fore.
However, no official statement was issued by the Maoists in this regard so far.
Major maoist violence in Gadchiroli
** Seven suspected Maoists were gunned down in the district in February this year.
** As many as 39 suspected rebels were killed by police in different operations in the district since January, 2013
** 12 CRPF jawans were killed in a landmine blast in north Gadchiroli on March 27, 2012.
** 15 police personnel were gunned down by red rebels near Murumgaon in the district on February 1, 2012.
** Six members of a marriage party killed on May 5, 2011 near Kasansur in Bhamragarh tehsil.
** Maoists killed 17 policemen on October 8, 2009, near Laheri under Bhamragarh tahsil of south Gadchiroli.
** Maoist rebels killed 16 police persons including five women constables in an attack on May 21, 2009 near Tawetola in Dhanora tahsil of north Gadchiroli.
** Three persons, including a sarpanch and senior official of a corporate house were killed by Maoists near Surajgarh in the district on June 13 last year.