Forces, Maoists exchange fire in West Bengal


Kolkata: Days after their daring raid on a police station, the Maoist rebels triggered three landmine blasts and engaged the security forces in a heavy exchange of fire in West Bengal’s Lalgarh belt Saturday evening.

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The troopers opened fire at the suspected extreme ultras near the Kantapahari forest area under the Lalgarh police station, West Midnapore district magistrate N.S. Nigam said.

“The gun battle continued for almost 20 minutes. No injury has been reported so far in the firing,” Nigam told IANS.

He said the ultras also triggered three landmine blasts near Baropelia in the district.

“The Maoist opened fire at the joint forces when they were carrying out patrol in the area,” he said.

Security has been intensified in the district after the Maoists attacked the Sankrail police station, shot dead two officers and kidnapped the officer-in-charge besides looting the firearms kept there.

Officer-in-charge Atindranath Mitra was released unharmed Thursday.

Lalgarh has been on the boil since November last when a landmine exploded on the route of the convoy of Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee and then central ministers Ram Vilas Paswan and Jitin Prasada.

Complaining of police atrocities after the blast, angry tribals backed by Maoists launched an agitation, virtually cutting off the area from the rest of West Midnapore district.

As violence continued, the paramilitary forces and state police launched the security operation, but till date the Maoists have been gunning down leaders and activists of the state’s ruling Left Front major Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) and tribals whom they dub as police informers.

Maoists are active in areas covered by 21 police stations in the state’s three western districts – West Midnapore, Bankura and Purulia.