Dantewada attack kills 36

Maoists target civilian bus; 12 police officers among victims

Dantewada attack kills 36

Bodies strewn around the mangled remains of a bus hit by a landmine in Dantewada district on Monday. AFP

In a brazen attack, Maoists on Monday blew up a bus killing at least 36 people, including 12 Special Police Officers (SPOs), in Chhattisgarh’s Dantewada, the district worst-affected by Left-wing extremism.

The passenger bus, which was on its way from Sukma to Dantewada, was blown up by the Maoists between Gadiras to Bhusaras near Chingavaram village, about 450 km from here, using Improvised Explosive Device (IED) with gelatin sticks.

The passenger bus was thrown up several feet by the impact of the explosion. The bus was completely mangled with its front portion squeezed into a steel ball. The bodies of SPOs with INSAS rifles, civilians with their belongings, slippers and clothes were scattered around the site. Several bodies that were brought out from the bus were mutilated.

Fourteen persons were injured in the explosion and have been rushed to hospital. Their condition is said to be serious.

The attack, which took place  around 4:45 pm, is being seen as yet another violation of Standard Operating Procedures, which prohibited policemen and SPOs from travelling in civilian vehicles.

Strongly condemning the attack, Union Home Secretary G K Pillai said the killing of innocent civilians showed “wanton disregard” for life by the Naxals. “This pattern of killing unarmed civilians has been the hallmark of Maoist violence over the years. In the last two days, we have seen that a village sarpanch and five others were killed,” Pillai said.

Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Raman Singh said the attack showed the desperation of the Naxals who were losing their support base. “We have been saying this... when the Naxals support base finishes, they resort to such methods,” he said.

Monday’s attack is the latest in the chain of such incidents over the last six weeks. On Sunday, six villagers, including a sarpanch, were killed near Teregaon in Rajnandgaon district and their bodies thrown outside the village.

On May 8, seven CRPF jawans were killed when Naxals blew up a bullet-proof vehicle in Bijapur district. The deadliest of the attacks was on April 6, in which 76 security personnel were killed in Mukrana forests of Dantewada. According to top police officials, use of IEDs by Naxals is similar to the way LTTE used it against the Lankan Army.

In Monday’s attack, the IED is understood to have been planted days before. The Naxals dug up tunnels on either side of the road to reach the concrete top from below to plant the IED, the officials said.

“In this way, they do not disturb the crust so to avoid any suspicion. The signs of dredging on sides of road can be easily wiped off. Also, in this way they can quickly fit an IED and carry out the blast in the most effective way,” they said.
The Maoists had made a similar use of IED last week, to blow up the vehicle carrying CRPF personnel.

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