KERALA

Gang unleashes terror in Valakom

KOLLAM Aug. 26. Tension gripped Valakom town, near Kottarakara, today evening when a five-member gang from a hooch mafia unleashed terror for more than an hour. Several shops, cars, taxis, buses and a dozen autorickshaws were attacked and damaged.

According to the people, the gang was apparently protesting against the opening of a Beverages Corporation retail IMFL outlet in the town. They said that two weeks ago, the gang members had picked up a quarrel with an employee of the retail outlet and threatened him with dire consequences.

Today, the gang arrived in a Tata Sumo van, barged into the outlet and assaulted the employee, identified as Saji. He has been hospitalised and his condition is said to be serious, they said.

When the local people objected to the assault, the gang turned on them. Several shops in the area were attacked and damaged. Autorickshaws parked at the junction were attacked. Five autodrivers, who made an attempt to save their vehicles, were brutally beaten up and they have been hospitalised. Private cars and buses that happened to pass that way were also not spared.

The people alleged that the police arrived at the scene only 40 minutes after the attack began. The gang attacked the shops and vehicles with granite pillars that are used for erecting fences. Even as the police arrived, the attack continued. When police reinforcements were rushed to the scene, the gang members took to their heels and vanished. However, the driver of the van has been arrested and the vehicle taken into custody.

The Adoor MP, Kodikunnil Suresh, and MLAs, Adoor Prakash and Thiruvanchoor Radhakrishnan, visited the trouble-torn area. An all-party meeting has been organised in the township later in the night to protest against the incident and demand strong action against the culprits.

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