The Maoists struck at three places in Jharkhand and Bihar on Wednesday, the eve of the first phase of the 2009 General Election. Three securitymen, including two CRPF constables, and five naxals were killed in the triple strikes.
Home minister P Chidambaram said the Maoists have done all they could to disrupt the polls. “However, polls in Naxal-affected areas will be over tomorrow.”
<b1>A landmine blast in Latehar, about 125 km from Ranchi, and frontal attacks on a Jharkhand Armed Police camp in Ratnag village and BSF camp in Rohtas district of Bihar were aimed to strike fear in heart of the voters ahead of the polls. Six constituencies in Jharkhand and four in Bihar will vote in the first phase on Thursday.
The Maoists blew up an empty bus en route to an election cluster in Latehar with a landmine. Latehar falls in the Palamu constituency, a naxal stronghold. The bus driver, Vijay Sao, and CRPF constable Dharmendra Yadav were killed on the spot. Another injured CRPF constable, Mahipal, succumbed to bullet injuries at a hospital in Ranchi.
About 80 CRPF constables were traveling on the bus minutes before the blast. Apprehending an ambush by the naxals, the jawans got off the bus and walked behind the vehicle. They were to board the bus again after crossing the forest area, the police said.
Immediately after the blast, the CRPF jawans took positions and exchanged fire with the Maoists, killing five of them, Jharkhand's inspector-general of police (provision) S N Pradhan told Hindustan Times. Six Maoists and 11 CRPF jawans were injured in the crossfire. The jawans have been taken to Ranchi for treatment.
At Ratnag, armed Maoists, who attacked a Jharkhand Armed Police camp, were forced to retreat after an hour-long gun battle with the JAP personnel.
In Bihar, the guerrillas used rockets and modern weapons in the attack on the BSF camp set up for elections in Rohtas district. About 200 Maoists attacked the camp around 1.40 am. BSF jawans and naxals exchanged fire for three-and-a-half hours, Rohtas's superintendent of police Vikas Vaibhav told HT over the phone.
Meanwhile, deptuy election commissioner R Balakrishnan said the poll panel has taken all necessary measures including requisitioning of helicopters for movement of poll personnel and Electronic Voting Machines in the Red zone.