Maoists target election process in Bihar, Jharkhand (Roundup)

April 15th, 2009 - 8:47 pm ICT by IANS  

P. Chidambaram Ranchi/Patna/New Delhi, April 15 (IANS) Maoist rebels launched back-to-back attacks, targeting those on election duty, in Bihar and Jharkhand Wednesday sparking fears that the ultras may try and disrupt the poll process Thursday. The home ministry has asked the state governments to beef up security to ensure peaceful voting.
Heavily armed guerrillas unleashed a wave of violence attacking camps of the Border Security Force (BSF) and ambushing a bus in which eight people, including five Maoist rebels, were killed.

The two attacks took place within a short while, raising fears of violence during the elections.

“They (Maoist rebels) are doing everything to disrupt elections,” Home Minister P. Chidambaram told a press conference in Mumbai.

At about 1 a.m. Wednesday, over 100 Maoists, armed with rocket launchers, attacked a BSF camp in Bhansa Ghati in Bihar’s Rohtas district, about 150 km from Patna.

Though the BSF reported no casualties, police said over half a dozen guerrillas were believed to have been killed in the counter-attack.

“Maoists fired three rocket launchers on the BSF camp. Two failed and one rocket hit a wall,” Additional Director General of Police (Police Headquarters) Neelmani told IANS, adding it was expected that Maoists would create trouble ahead of the elections.

In Jharkhand’s Lathear area, a bus carrying around 80 Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) personnel was ambushed near Barnia village of Latehar district, about 140 km from Raipur. The security personnel were on their way to election duty.

Maoist rebels first detonated a landmine and then started firing indiscriminately. The security personnel retaliated with gunfire.

“The bus driver was killed on the spot and two security personnel died on the way to hospital. The bodies of five Maoist rebels have also been recovered,” police spokesperson S.N. Pradhan told IANS.

Ahead of the polling, the Election Commission said it was “constantly monitoring” the situation in both the states. The attacks come after another daring assault over the weekend on Nalco’s bauxite mine in Orissa’s Koraput district, where rebels killed 10 Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) troopers.

“The Election Commission is taking stock of the situation in the Naxal-affected areas through control rooms established in the state and at national level. The Election Commission is constantly monitoring the situation in the affected areas,” said Deputy Election Commissioner R. Balakrishnan.

“In some areas, polling locations have been shifted for the voters convenience in these areas,” he added. Polling will take place between 7 a.m. and 3 p.m. in the areas identified as Maoist affected.

Eighteen Maoist-affected parliamentary constituencies will go to polls in the first phase.

Before the twin attacks in Bihar and Jharkhand, CRPF Director General A.S. Gill was also fired at by armed rebels in Chhattisgarh.

The incident occurred Sunday morning in Dantewada as Gill and other officials were landing in a village. The state government helicopter was fired at but no damage was caused. Gill’s visit to the state followed a attack in which nine CRPF personnel, including a deputy commandant, were killed.

Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Bihar and Orissa together account for about 86 percent of incidents of Maoist violence and casualties, both civilian and security personnel, in the country.

In the 1,591 incidents in the country in 2008, the number being slightly higher than those in the previous year, 231 security personnel and 490 civilians were killed, according to home ministry figures.

Related Stories

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Posted in Politics |