Maoists on terror spree in Jharkhand, Bihar before polls (Lead)

Patna/Ranchi, April 15 (Inditop) Heavily armed Maoist guerrillas unleashed a wave of violence in Bihar and Jharkhand Wednesday, the day before round one of Elections 2009, attacking camps of the Border Security Force (BSF) and ambushing a bus in which seven people were killed.

All the attacks took place within a short while of each other, raising fears of violence during the elections.

“They (Maoists) 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 Border Security Force (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 that it was expected that Maoists would create trouble ahead of elections.

Added Rohtas Superintendent of Police Vikas Vaibhav: “It is difficult to say exactly, but some Maoists were killed the counter attack by security forces. Maoists fled with bodies and seriously injured rebels; they left marks of blood everywhere.”

The BSF camp was set up to ensure peaceful polls in view of the boycott call by the outlawed Communist Party of India-Maoist (CPI-Maoist).

A BSF camp set up to monitor polling in Jharkhand’s Palamau district, about 190 km from Ranchi, was also attacked late on Tuesday by over 200 Maoist rebels.

There were around 70 BSF personnel in the camp. The gun battle between the guerrillas and security personnel lasted several hours but no one was injured, police said.

In the state’s Lathear area, seven people, including five Maoist rebels, were killed when guerrillas ambushed a bus carrying about 80 security personnel. 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 one security personnel died on the way to hospital. The bodies of five Maoist rebels have been recovered,” police spokesperson S.N. Pradhan said.

The violence has been continuing for a while.

On Tuesday, Maoist rebels torched the campaign vehicle of Mahabali Singh, the Janata Dal-United (JD-U) candidate for Bihar’s Karakat seat, in Aurangabad district. The day before, two school buildings in Gaya district and another primary school building in Aurangabad district were bombed by the guerrillas. The buildings were to be used as polling centres.

Responding to the attacks, Bihar police chief D.N. Gautam said poll violence was a major concern. “In view of this threat, the administration has taken adequate measures to check the violence.”

In the first phase, in which 13 of Bihar’s 40 seats will go to the polls, choppers will be deployed for security. The other three rounds will be held on April 23, 30 and May 7.

The concerns were similar in Jharkhand.

A police official in Ranchi said this was one of the toughest elections as the Maoists had shown evidence of going hi-tech.

“The Bihar attack on the BSF camp in Rohtas revealed that Maoists used advanced weapons,” he said.

The six Lok Sabha seats going to the polls in Jharkhand on Thursday are Palamau, Chatra, Koderma, Lohardagga, Hazaribagh and Khuti. The second phase of polling in Jharkhand is April 23.