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IAF copters on poll duty

Alarmed by a spurt in violence by Maoist rebels, Andhra Pradesh Police have stepped up security and pressed air force helicopters into service to tackle any threat during the first phase of polls in the state on April 20, 2004.
PTI | By Indo-Asian News Service, Hyderabad
UPDATED ON APR 20, 2004 01:39 PM IST

Alarmed by a spurt in violence by Maoist rebels, Andhra Pradesh Police have stepped up security and pressed air force helicopters into service to tackle any threat during the first phase of polls Tuesday.

Director General of Police SR Sukumara told a news conference here Monday Mi-8 helicopters of the Indian Air Force would be used for aerial surveys to keep an eye on the movements of the rebels, to evacuate policemen in case of any emergency and to airlift polling material and personnel if needed.

The deployment of helicopters is part of elaborate security arrangements made for the simultaneous elections to the state assembly and 42 Lok Sabha seats. The failed assassination attempt on Telugu Desam Party (TDP) leader K Yerran Naidu early on Monday forced the police to further step up security arrangements.

Sukumara said additional forces were being sent to several districts in view of a spurt in Maoist violence during the past two days.

He said 57,000 personnel of civil forces and 25,000 of the armed forces, besides paramilitary troopers, would be deployed in the 21 Lok Sabha constituencies going to the polls Tuesday.

The police have formed 921 strike forces and 268 special strike forces to deal with any contingency. They have also constituted 2,783 mobile parties.

Yerran Naidu, the TDP leader in the dissolved Lok Sabha, and five others were injured when the vehicle they were travelling in was blasted by suspected Maoist guerrillas near Srikakulam town.

Srikakulam is among the Lok Sabha constituencies going to the polls Tuesday along with 147 assembly constituencies. These constituencies are spread over the 10 districts of the Telangana region and three districts of north coastal Andhra Pradesh.

During the past two days, police have killed six Maoist guerrillas in gun battles in different places in Telangana and also seized claymore mines planted in Adilabad district.

The guerrillas killed a TDP leader and injured another in Anantapur district Sunday.

"The extremist problem continues to be there as is evident from a series of attacks. It is mindless violence," said Sukumara, who appealed to the people not to bother about these incidents.

The police chief said 415 pre-poll incidents were reported from across the state. While 78 cases were of rebel violence, the rest were "non-extremist incidents".

Among the cases registered against political parties, the ruling TDP leads with 132 cases. They include violence, arson, attack on police parties and seizure of money, liquor and sports kits.

Sukumara said 97 cases were booked against the Congress, 28 against the Telangana Rashtra Samiti and five against the Bharatiya Janata Party.

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