PURULIA: Maoists struck in Purulia’s Bandwan town soon after the first phase of panchayat polls got over on Sunday.
Despite a 24-hour helicopter vigil, a van carrying 12 BSF jawans was ripped apart by a landmine explosion near the Shirka forest on the Bengal-Jharkhand border, killing one. The condition of three jawans is critical.
The Maoists were chased by the CRPF and State Armed Police personnel and an exchange of fire continued till late in the night. "The place is isolated and we are trying to reach there as fast as possible. The police are still exchanging fire with the Maoists," said district magistrate Deepak Kar.
The blast occurred at 5.45 pm when the van was escorting a team of six election workers back to Purulia town. The latter were travelling in a car behind the BSF vehicle and escaped unhurt.
A secluded and uninhabited area, the Shirka forest has been a Maoist stronghold for long. Immediately after the blast, the Maoists took refuge in the forest and fired at policemen. Additional forces of BSF and district armed police jawans were rushed to the site from Purulia town. CRPF jawans posted in a nearby camp were also brought in.
A red alert has been sounded in all police stations of Purulia. CRPF and the state armed police forces were in touch with the Jharkhand police to ensure that the Maoists did not cross over to the neighbouring state. "We have alerted them about the blast and they have been asked to arrest the Maoists," said a senior state police officer.
Earlier in the day, Maoists planted an IED at a polling booth at Kashmar primary school near Belpahari’s Chakadoba village, delaying the poll process.
A Trinamool panchayat samity candidate in Burdwan’s Jhilu gram panchayat, Munshi Rezaul Haq, was injured after bombs were hurled near a booth allegedly by CPM supporters.
At Mamudpur in the same district, 450 ballot papers were snatched from Fakir Chand primary school. State election commission secretary S N Roy Chowdhury said the Burdwan district magistrate has been asked to submit a repo