One employee injured, four missing

They took away eight rifles, VHF communication sets

Two vehicles were set afire, wireless control room damaged

Baripada (Orissa): One forest employee was injured and four others went missing on Sunday after suspected Maoists blew up three forest range offices, looted tourists, damaged communication system and torched two vehicles in the Similipal Tiger Project (STP) in Mayurbhanj district.

“Using explosives, they razed the range offices at Barahakamuda, Chahala and Dhuduruchampa located in the core areas of the tiger reserve in a four-hour-long attack that ended around 2.30 a.m.,” Field Director of the STP N. Nagaraj Reddy said. In their first major attack on a tourist spot in Orissa, armed Maoist cadre that included women, launched a simultaneous attack and fled with eight rifles and VHF communication sets from forest range offices, besides setting ablaze two vehicles and damaging a wireless control room, police said.

However, it was not clear whether the missing employees had fled or were abducted by the ultras, the police sources said. The Maoists tied tourists at Chahala and forest personnel at Barahakamuda and Dhuduruchampa. They allegedly took away all their valuables, cash, mobile phones and cameras, police said. Sixteen tourists in two groups from West Bengal were staying at Chahala. They were sent back safely, officials said.

“We are shocked. They looted all our belongings,” Partha Mazumdar and Ranjan Mandal of Kolkata said after returning from Chahala.

Chahala was an important tourist place in Similipal hills with accommodation facilities for VVIPs and other visitors, while the other two places which Maoists attacked were located in areas where tourists could not enter, the sources said.

Police personnel in strength were sent to the area and efforts were on to trace the missing staff, officials said. Steps were also taken to restore communication network disrupted due to the attack on a crucial wireless control room on Meghasoni hills, sources said. — PTI