Maoists loot truckful of blast material

Vehicle was headed for Raipur

Maoists loot truckful of blast material

Security personnel checking a forest area a day after Maoists blew up a CRPF vehicle killing five persons near Lalgarh in West Midnapore district of West Bengal on Thursday. PTI

A search operation that began in Dantewada, the epicentre of Maoist insurgency, where a civilian bus carrying some special police officers was blown up by the clever use of a landmine on Monday, yielded nothing.

The truck driver, who was held captive for close to 24 hours, reported the heist early on Thursday morning to the police at Bhanpur, where at least 15 special forces troopers searched the dense jungles from daybreak to dusk but found neither the vehicle nor the cleaner who is reported missing. The truck left Visakhapatnam in Andhra Pradesh on Tuesday night and took a northerly course to Koraput in Orissa, from where it hit the national highway to enter Chhattisgarh on Wednesday. According to information furnished by the driver, armed Maoists suddenly appeared on the scene, held up the truck and forced the driver out.

The Maoists are believed to have abducted the truck cleaner/helper who, police sources suspect, was coerced into going along with the insurgents.

The truck was headed for Raipur, Chhattisgarh state headquarters, where the consignment was to be delivered to a factory.

Ammonium nitrate is an essential component for manufacturing explosives that the Maoists have used effectively and with lethal accuracy against security forces.

What has sent alarm bells ringing among the rank and file of the special forces and the police in Chhattisgarh is the disappearance of the deadly chemical compound and its potential use in rigging explosives and improvised explosive devices. Maoists had looted a detonator-laden truck a few months ago. The detonators are yet to be traced.

At Narayanpur and Orchha-Narayanpur, about 70 km west of Bastar, a sliver of the Maoists’ “liberated zone”, where not a single uniformed policeman could be seen for miles on end, the writ of the Naxals is complete. A small wedding party at Kanker and a local ‘haat’ (village market) outside of Bastar were the only places of human activity for miles together.

While the trade in “desi murgi” or country chicken and “mahua”, a potent country liquor, was brisk, residents from nearby villages gathered at the “haat” preferred to maintain a discreet silence when asked about the insurgency and how the Maoists tend to get intelligence on movement of security forces.

It is this silence, among the people and in the verdant fields and eerie depths of the forests on either side of the highway where danger lurks at every step, which makes the government’s prolonged counter-insurgency campaign to hunt down the Maoists difficult and arduous.

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