Maoists killed nine policemen in Orissa’s Koraput district by triggering a landmine blast on a day when Union Home Minister P Chidambaram made his first visit to the Maoist-affected Lalgarh area of West Bengal on Sunday.
<b1>The blast destroyed one of the three buses in which 70 men of the Orissa Police’s special operations group (SOG) were travelling through a hilly area. Eight policemen were injured in the attack and two were missing at the time of going to press.
Condemning the killing, Orissa Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik said, “The Maoists are behaving in a savage and unlawful manner. Our forces are doing a tremendous effort to counter them.”
Orissa Police Inspector General (Operations) Sanjiv Marik said, “Extensive combing has been going on in the area. The SOG personnel were going on a mission to clear a road for anti-Maoist forces.”
Maoists in Orissa have killed 38 security personnel engaged in operations against them over the past year.
In neighbouring West Bengal’s Lalgarh area, Chidambaram said maintaining law and order in the state was Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee’s responsibility.
“I told him the buck stops at his table. If it goes somewhere else, it’s a failure of the administration,” Chidambaram said.
The Union minister, who sees the Maoists as the biggest threat to the country’s internal security, rejected media reports that the locals support the ultras.
“It’s wrong to say the villagers are with the Naxals. People here are very poor and unhappy with the lack of development. But they understand Naxals can’t bring development,” he said.
Ruling out the possibility of withdrawing central security forces from Lalgarh, the home minister said, “If someone can convince me that withdrawing central forces will make things better, then we’ll do it.”
Chidambaram, however, admitted the rebels were regrouping. “They’re constantly changing their strategy and regrouping. They are following a low intensity conflict,” he said.