Patna: In a breakthrough in the Bihar policemen hostage crisis, the alleged mastermind behind the kidnapping has reportedly been arrested, along with several other Naxal leaders.
Reports said the arrests took place from the jungles of Jamui.
Pradeep Kumar, who is believed to have masterminded the kidnapping of four policemen and subsequent murder of one of them, was nabbed during a combing operation in the forests. However, there is no news about the fate of remaining three kidnapped policemen.
The arrests came a day after the bullet-riddled body of Lucas Tete was found in the Simratali forests of Lakhisarai district, about 150 km from the state capital Patna, five days after he and three of his colleagues were kidnapped by Maoists.
Maoists had earlier claimed to have killed Sub Inspector Abhay Kumar Yadav. However, the body turned out to be of Lucas Tete and not of Abhay Kumar Yadav.
There was no confirmation about Yadav or the other two -- Rupesh Kumar Sinha and Ehsan Khan -- who had been kidnapped Sunday after a six-hour gunfight in Lakhisarai that left seven policemen dead.
Villagers said Maoists had left a handwritten poster near Tete`s body, warning that they would not talk with the government any more.
Additional Director General of Police (Headquarters) PK Thakur told reporters in Patna that combing operations had been intensified in Lakhisarai, Jamui, Banka and Munger districts.
Another official added that scores of Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) troopers were scouring the forests, hoping to find a clue to the whereabouts of the other hostages.
Police officials said the state government had requested three more helicopters from the Border Security Force (BSF) as one helicopter was already engaged in operations against Maoists since Tuesday.
Tete`s body was first taken to a nearby police station and then to the Lakhisarai district headquarters from there to Patna, where his wife Pyari and three teen daughters -- Anjela, Majula and Neelam -- had arrived from their home in Ranchi.
Maoists had claimed to have killed Yadav around 4.00 pm Thursday, six hours after their second deadline expired at 10.00 am. The killing took place following a decision by a `jan adalat` - a kangaroo court - a Maoist spokesperson said.
Maoists claimed Sunday`s gunfight and kidnappings were in retaliation for the killing of their leader Cherukuri Rajkumar alias Azad and a journalist on the night of July 1-2 in Andhra Pradesh.
The rebels said the four kidnapped policemen would be killed unless eight jailed Maoist leaders were released.
The Maoists have also warned the Bihar government of more attacks if the operations against them did not stop immediately.
A senior police official said in Patna that the government seemed in no mood to bow to the Maoists` demands after Tete`s killing.
Tete`s killing - a year after another police officer from Jharkhand, Francis Induwar, was abducted by Maoists and beheaded - has led to deep concern in New Delhi.
Maoists, said a Union Home Ministry official, were aiming to `demolish the morale` of security personnel.
`It is a disturbing trend. It is a move to demolish the morale of the forces,` the official said.
He said the Central government was viewing the Bihar situation against the backdrop of the coming Assembly polls later this year.
(With IANS inputs)