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Bhopal bust bares Naxal arms link

india Updated: Jan 14, 2007 16:45 IST

THE MAOISTS have suffered a major setback with the discovery of their arms factory in Bhopal, as intelligence sharing between Naxalite-affected states has resulted in another arms unit being busted in Rourkela in a joint operation of Andhra Pradesh and Orissa police.

It could well impede progress of the Naxalite juggernaut sweeping across the country with their arms factories, hidden for long, being busted one after the other. And more arrests of Naxalites are being reported from other states also.

The raids are being carried out on the basis of Intelligence Bureau tips in Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh. The investigators here say that the Naxalites arrested in Bhopal had sent consignments of guns, rocket launchers, mortars and other weapons to counterparts in Chhattisgarh. Women were used as carriers because they evoke less suspicion.

The accused have reportedly said that they sent the consignment of arms to Indore via bus and from there it was booked with a transporter for Chhattisgarh where it was collected. Indore being a commercial hub they felt that regular delivery would not cause much alarm.

Officers in Bhopal said that amongst the arrested persons are Naxalites of the rank of divisional commander and area commander, but hasten to add that this fact needed further confirmation. State police have sent information about the arrested Maoists to top police officials in Hyderabad for confirmation of their identities and are awaiting their response.

At least one of those held in Bhopal is member of the technical committee of the CPI (Maoist), say police officials interrogating the accused. The material and literature recovered in the raids have given officials vital information about the network of Maoists and their strategy. The teams of Intelligence Bureau (IB) from Delhi and Andhra Pradesh police have been quizzing five accused including a woman.

Some of the accused were wanted in connection with heinous crimes in Andhra Pradesh. They carry rewards on their head in Andhra Pradesh. Since the accused are in police custody until January 25, the State police are not in any hurry. Teams from Karnataka and Maharashtra police have also reached Bhopal for assistance. The raid in Rourkela is reportedly the result of intelligence sharing between Naxalite-affected states after the Bhopal illegal factory bust.

Five persons including two women who were producing .303-bore rifles were arrested there and laptop, arms components, drawings of weapons and Rs 15 lakh cash were seized, just like the seizure in Bhopal.

Intelligence officials admit that Bhopal was perhaps selected due to its strategic location and better rail, road and air connectivity. A similar workshop was unearthed in      nearly a decade ago, but since then no such factory has been busted.

The five accused detained in Rourkela have been arrested under Sections 107, 120 ( A), 120 (B), 121, 122 and 124 of Indian Penal Code for criminal conspiracy, waging war against government, collecting arms to attempt war against the state, intent to restrain the exercise of any lawful power, apart from relevant Sections of the Explosives Act and Arms Act.

Meanwhile, arrests, raids and Naxalite deaths continued nationwide. On the basis of information obtained after quizzing the accused in Bhopal, the police have arrested a Maoist in Khammam district of Andhra Pradesh on the border of Chhattisgarh. Sarjit alias Satish Patil is a member of technical committee of the party and was allegedly engaged in making weapons.

Police said some Maoists were killed in a gunbattle at around 3 pm at Otlapalli village in Gurrampudu mandal of Nalgonda district, about 150 km from Hyderabad. Besides, four Naxalites have been gunned down in an encounter in Nalgonda district of Andhra Pradesh. A top Maoist leader of the district is believed to be among the slain outlaws. One AK-47 was recovered from the spot.