Two policemen were killed and the officer-in-charge of the Sankrail thana in West Bengal’s Paschim Medinipur district was abducted by an armed group of Maoists on Tuesday. They also looted a bank there.

The incident occurred about 80 km from Lalgarh.

According to police sources, the assailants arrived at the thana on motorbikes. They included several members of the Maoist’s women squad.

Sub-inspector Diwakar Bhattacharya and assistant sub-inspector Swapan Ray were shot dead when they put up resistance.

The officer-in-charge of the thana, Atindranath Dutta, was tied up and taken hostage while the rest of the policemen fled.

The police station was ransacked and several firearms, including rifles, revolvers and pistols, were looted from the armoury.

Another group stormed the bank and took away more that Rs. 9 lakh after holding its manager, Baikunthacharan Nayek, at gunpoint.

The Maoists left behind leaflets that warned of landmine explosions if the security forces entered the area. The landmine threat was later found to be a ploy of the Maoists to buy time as the bomb squad of the police subsequently discovered that all the explosive devices were inactive. Traffic on the NH-6 was suspended for more than four hours, however, because of the threat.

Several top-ranking police officials rushed to the district.

The modus operandi in the attack bore striking similarities to Maoist strikes on police stations and banks in Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand. It was, however, the first of its kind in West Bengal where Maoist attacks were so far confined to landmine blasts and the killing of people, mainly supporters of political parties.

Director-General of Police Bhupinder Singh told The Hindu over telephone from Midnapore town that it was possible that Maoist squad members from neighbouring States had accompanied the local militia, since the site of attack was close to the Orissa border.

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