Maoists trigger landmine, fire at advancing forces in Lalgarh
Maoist rebels fired at security personnel and triggered landmines in jungles as troopers advanced to reclaim new areas and flush out far-left radicals from West Midnapore district in West Bengal, officials said on Friday.
A joint team of central paramilitary troopers and state armed policemen set out from their camp in Goaltore bordering Bankura district on Friday morning to retake some strategic pockets still held by the ultras but met with resistance at a forested stretch in Pingboni after a 1 km march, an official said.
The extremists triggered a landmine and fired at the forces but fled after the troopers returned fire.
Later, the landmine experts accompanying the security personnel defused three more mines planted by the Maoists by the roadside.
"The operations are on smoothly. The security forces are marching ahead to flush out the Maoists and there has been no casualty on our side," Inspector General (Law and Order) Raj Kanojia told IANS, refusing to divulge details of operations.
Riding mine-protected vehicles and using hand held mine detectors, the forces have cordoned off the area to search for more mines on the ninth day of the security operation launched to curb the activities of the Left radicals.
A section of the forces have continued their march to establish control over other Maoist-affected pockets onway to Ramgarh, 9 km from Goaltore, where the rebels had earlier this month torched a police camp and driven out the civil and military administration.
Meanwhile, things seemed to be improving in Lalgarh town, 200 km west of state capital Kolkata, with shops and markets reopening and vehicles out on the roads. The district administration is continuing relief operations and distributed rice and other materials.
But people in interior villages continued to flee homes for relief camps or houses of friends and relatives in other localities, media reports said.
A report said more than 30,000 villagers had left their homes, fearing a security crackdown in the area where the state administration was virtually blocked out by hundreds of armed Maoists. The security operations were started June 18.
"The police raid our homes in daytime, the forest party (Maoists) intimidate us at night. Where do you go?" a feeling villager told a visiting reporter.
The tribal body People's Committee Against Police Atrocities (PCAPA), backed by the Maoists, has since last November established a virtual control over 42 villages in Lalgarh and surrounding areas by driving away the civil and police administration.
But the combined forces of the central and West Bengal governments have re-established the writ of the state in more than half of these villages.
Lalgarh has been on the boil since November when a landmines exploded on the route of the convoy of Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee and then central ministers Ram Vilas Paswan and Jitin Prasada.
Complaining of police atrocities after the blast, angry tribals backed by Maoists launched an agitation, virtually cutting off the area from the rest of West Midnapore district.
Leftwing radicals torched police camps, set ablaze offices of the state's ruling communists and drove out the civil administration to establish a virtual "free zone".
Maoists are active in areas under 21 police stations in the state's three western districts - West Midnapore, Bankura and Purulia.