Two COBRA jawans were shot dead and four seriously injured in a Maoist ambush in the jungles of Jhumra hills at Gomia block, about 95km from Bokaro steel city, on a day a security team led by a CRPF commandant conducted an aerial recce of the area after receiving reports of heightened rebel activity.
The massive attack comes after a lull of more than four years in the zone, taking the police top brass by surprise.
The jawans belonging to COBRA and 26th Battalion of CRPF, who were on routine patrolling, had made a cardinal mistake — they had taken the same route they had used in the past few days unaware that Maoists, armed with sophisticated firearms, were hiding in the jungles.
The ambush occurred near Aman at Beltharwa around 4.15pm. According to Bokaro SP Kuldeep Dwivedi, a heavy exchange of gunfire followed the ambush and continued for more than 90 minutes.
The dead have been identified as Praveen Kumar and Ram Singh, while the injured are Anish, Batajeet Mandal and Asit Mallick—all in their late 20s. The injured have been rushed to Apollo Hospital in Ranchi.
According to sources, the security team had divided themselves into groups for patrolling. As the first group, comprising about a dozen personnel, reached Aman, the waiting Maoists suddenly started firing indiscriminately, killing two COBRA jawans, who were in the front.
On hearing the gunshots, the second team, which was following close behind, took guard and fired back. More than 1,500 rounds were fired from both sides for nearly an hour till more police reinforcements were rushed in from Hazaribagh and Gomia, prompting the Maoists to beat a hasty retreat.
Police say that the Maoists might have also suffered casualties.
IG and police spokesperson R.K. Mallick said: “The casualties occurred during a search operation carried out by paramilitary personnel and state police after they got specific information about Maoist presence in the area.”
Apollo superintendent P.D. Sinha said while Batajeet and Asit Mallick, who were from Bengal’s Durgapur, were out of danger, Anish’s condition was serious. He will need surgery to remove a bullet that has pierced his stomach.
On Tuesday morning, commandant of CRPF’s 26th Battalion Imran Mallick, along with newly posted Bokaro additional superintendent of police P.K. Karna, went for an aerial survey of the red belt spanning Bokaro, Giridih and Hazaribagh to chalk out new strategies to counter the rebels.
According to sources, the CRPF had received intelligence reports that Maoists were hiding in nearby forests and trying to lure youths to join the banned outfit.
Sources said Mallick had even advised his men to be extra careful during patrolling, but his instruction seems to have fallen on deaf ears as the security team at Aman failed to plan their operation well.