Orissa mourns cops killed by Maoists, combs forests (Lead)

July 17th, 2008 - 7:00 pm ICT by IANS  


Bhubaneswar, July 17 (IANS) Hundreds of armed policemen Thursday searched the dense forests in Orissa’s Malkangiri district a day after 17 policemen were killed there in a land mine blast triggered by Maoist rebels. “It is not the first blast. They have also done this in Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand in the past. It is a part of a battle and we will face it,” Gopal Chandra Nanda, Orissa director general of police told IANS.

Nanda along with other senior police officials visited the affected district and took stock of the situation.

“Hundreds of armed policemen have started combing operation in the forest and more forces would be moved,” he said.

A huge crowd gathered at Malkangiri town on learning about the news. Family members of the policemen killed broke into tears on seeing the bodies.

The district administration handed over the bodies to their family members after officials paid floral tribute, state honour and gun salutes.

Maoists blew up the police vehicle near ‘MV126′ village, some 750 km from here, killing 17 policemen.

Initially the police said 24 policemen were in the vehicle and all were killed. However, district superintendent of police Satish Gajbhiye said that 17 personnel were on board and the rest were riding motorcycles. The motorcyclists managed to escape unhurt. The van was badly damaged in the blast.

“Anti-landmine vehicles have tolerance limits to withstand a blast. In this case, the rebels used huge explosives, much more than what it could tolerate,” said Gajbhiye.

Some eyewitnesses said the blast was so powerful that the vehicle was thrown over 40 metres in the air before it crashed on the ground.

The Orissa government announced compensation of Rs.1.4 million to the families of each slain policemen and a job to a kin.

The Wednesday blast, the second biggest Maoist attack on a police party in the last one month, has come as a shock for the government with the opposition Congress describing this is an outcome of an intelligence failure.

At least 38 policemen were killed when the Maoist guerrillas attacked and sank a boat in Balimela reservoir in the same district June 29. Sixty-six personnel of Greyhounds - a special anti-Maoist force - were returning to Andhra Pradesh after taking part in a joint operation with the Orissa police when their motor boat was attacked.

The militants ambushed the boat from the surrounding hillocks as it was crossing Balimela reservoir, 700 km from here.

Earlier Feb 15, the rebels attacked Orissa’s Nayagarh district armoury and a police training school simultaneously, with a degree of military precision unseen before. Fourteen people, including 13 policemen, lost their lives in the attack.

According to the government, the rebels have influence in at least half of Orissa’s 30 districts.

The police said the guerrillas use modern weapons like light machine guns (LMG), AK-47s and self loading rifles (SLR) and also grenade launchers.

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