Monday, November 29, 1999

Naxals train, cops look away

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Lalgarh, June 18 -- A joint team of the Jharkhand Police and Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) have discovered that top Maoist leaders, including eight Central Committee members, are attending a massive training camp in Saranda forest in West Singhbhum district, but are making no attempt to stop or capture them. "Any decision (to raid the camp) taken in haste might lead to a repeat of the April 6 massacre," said a senior police officer, referring to the Dantewada attack in which 76 security men were killed by Maoists. Police sources said they found out about the camp during a combing operation. About 400 armed Maoist cadres are guarding a 6-km radius of the camp. All approaches have been dotted with landmines, said a police officer who didn't want to be named. Hindustan Times, on a visit to Saranda, discovered the camp is being held atop a hill in a place called Kiriburu. "Around 80 tarpaulin tents have been erected for the trainees," said a villager, requesting anonymity. He said Maoists had hired locals to transport five generator sets and several quintals of foodgrains and livestock to the camp. A police officer said 100 Special Action Teams of the Maoists were attending the camp. Also present were Maoist spokesperson and politburo member Koteshwar Rao alias Kishenji (54) and Maoist regional secretary and central military commission member Misir Besra. "We have sketchy information about his (Kishenji's) presence in Saranda," said Jharkhand DGP Neyaz Ahmad. He said the joint forces were working out a strategy to nab him and his associates. Widely quoted by the media before he went silent in March, Kishenji had slipped out of the Bengal police's net several times. He was believed to have been injured in an encounter with troops in Lalgarh in March. Rakeshji, a Maoist regional secretary and spokesperson, told Hindustan Times recently Kishenji had more important things to do than talk to the media. "He will come to you only after accomplishing some important responsibilities," he said.

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