Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Dantewada bus blast toll 31, PM to review Naxal strategy

A day after Naxals blew up a bus with security personnel and civilians on board near Dantewada in Chhattisgarh, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has called a top-level meeting to review the government's Naxal strategy.

The bodies of 31 people have been received in Sukma near Dantewada. The Maoists did not discriminate between the security forces and children. Sixteen special police officers (SPOs) and 15 civilians, including women and children were killed in the attack. Reports say 15 people have been rescued and rescue operations are on. Reports on the toll in the bus blast have been fluctuating since the incident last evening, as information is difficult to come by and ascertain in the dense forests of the Naxal-infested area where the bus was blown up.

Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Raman Singh will leave for Delhi soon to meet the Prime Minister, who called the review meeting a day after Home Minister P Chidambaram told NDTV that the government would have to revisit tactical operations against the Maoists in view of their changing tactics. (Watch: Security will be strengthened: Raman Singh) | (Watch: Exclusive interview with P Chidambaram)

As the debate on how to tackle the growing Naxal menace continues, the Army is expected to suggest at an ongoing conference that Naxal-affected states have a Brigadier as advisor. (Read: Army to discuss growing Maoist threat)

In Chhattisgarh, last rites for those killed in the bus blast will be performed at Sukma. The Chief Minister and state home minister Nankiram Kawar are expected to attend. (Watch: Civilian buses not meant for cops, says Kawar)

On Monday evening, the civilian bus carrying passengers from Sukma to Dantewada was blown up by the Naxals, who used a powerful improvised explosive device (IED). There were 50 people, including SPOs, on the bus, reports said. (Read: War zone Dantewada)

The massive explosion left a 10-feet deep crater.

Sources said the SPOs on the bus were part of an operation launched three days ago. Two Maoists had been killed in the operation, but the local commander, Ganesh, had escaped.

After finishing the operation, most of those involved were walking back, but 15 of them boarded the bus near Gadiras. Maoists reportedly observed them at the bus stand and passed on the information. Sources said this pointed to the swift and effective intelligence and communication network of the Naxals.

SPOs are mostly local people recruited to fight the Maoists and have emerged as the biggest threat to them.

This is the first such attack on a civilian passenger bus. But only six weeks ago, Dantewada had witnessed the worst-ever massacre of 75 CRPF jawans and one policeman in a Naxal ambush. (Read: 76 jawans killed in Naxal attack)

Recent attacks:

* The Naxals had on April 6 carried out their deadliest attack killing 76 security personnel in Mukrana forests of Dantewada district. (Read: 76 jawans killed in Naxal attack)
* On May 8, seven CRPF jawans were killed when Naxals blew up a bullet-proof vehicle in Bijapur district.
* The Maoists also killed six villagers, including a sarpanch, near Teregaon in Rajnandgaon district on Sunday and threw their bodies outside the villages.


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