One of the main accused in the Jnaneswari Express derailment case, Umakanto Mahato, was killed following a late night encounter between the security forces and the Maoists in the Mohanpur forest near Jhargram in West Bengal's Paschim Medinipur district in the early hours of Friday.
Senior member of the Maoist-backed Police Santrash Birodhi Janasadharaner Committee (PSBJC) Mahato, along with two others, had master-minded the train sabotage that killed 150 passengers on May 28.
According to the police, security personnel conducted a surprise raid at a gathering of Maoists in the Mohanpur forest following a tip-off.
“The Maoist sentries sensed that the forces were trying to cordon off the area and opened fire. The security personnel retaliated. The encounter that started around 1 a.m. continued for more than three hours,” Pravin Tripathi, Superintendent of Police of Jhargram police district, told The Hindu.
He said Mahato's body was found during a combing operation of the area after the firing.
“As an overturned motorcycle was lying nearby, it appears that he was trying to flee on it when he got shot. A 9 mm bore revolver was found beside the body. It belonged to a sub-inspector who was killed by the rebels near Jhargram in May 2008 when they attacked a police patrol party,” he added.
The PSBJC has called a 24-hour-bandh on August 30 in the three Maoist-affected south-western districts of the State in protest against Mahato's killing.
Meanwhile, three Communist Party of India (Marxist) supporters were killed by suspected Maoists in the nearby Kalaboni area late on Thursday.
Mr. Tripathi said primary investigations indicated that they were executed at a kangaroo-court held by the Maoists late on Thursday. Mahato was present at the site, he said.
The three persons were identified as Gopal Mantri, Rajiv Mantri and Tapan Mantri. They belonged to the same family.