Aman Sethi

Dantewada: Monday's blasting of a bus by Maoists, in which 15 civilians, an equal number of Special Police Officers (SPOs) and a constable of the Sashastra Seema Bal were killed in Chhattisgarh's Dantewada district, was a calculated attack targeted at the Koya Commando wing of SPOs.

This was stated by secretary of the South Bastar regional committee of the Communist Party of India (Maoist) Ravula Srinivas alias Ramanna. He told this correspondent over the phone that the attack was a revenge for the raping and killing of tribals of Goomiyapal, Gompad, Palodi and Singaram villages by the Koya Commandos. He added that the CPI(Maoist) deeply regretted the loss of civilian lives.

The following account is based on information gathered from police sources and Ramanna.

On May 16, a company of 104 Koya Commandos left their camp in Sukhma for a combing operation in the nearby jungles. The team entered the forest at Bhusaras (on the Dantewada-Sukhma road) and returned along the same path the next day.

At about 4:00 p.m., 30 commandos boarded a bus at Bhusaras. While some of them squeezed into the packed vehicle, several uniformed and armed personnel sat on the roof. About 4 km down the road, a team of Maoists lead by Rammana, lay in wait. On seeing the bus, they triggered a mine, killing 31 persons and injuring 27.

The police sources said at least 50 kg of gelatin was used. The Improvised Explosive Device was probably planted alongside the road's embankment, leaving the tarmac top untouched. “It is impossible to detect mines on such roads as metal detectors are rendered useless by the tarmac surface,” the sources said.

Police recovered an aluminium wire that ran from the blast site to the raised check-dam 250 metres off the road and was used to trigger the IED. The blast might have been detonated by a Maoist hiding behind the dam. Spent Kalashnikov shells recovered from the embankment suggest a short, sharp fire fight between the Maoists and the Koya Commandos after the blast.

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