Maoist onslaught: When death came on bikes
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Last Updated: Tuesday, February 16, 2010, 18:40
Shilda (WB): A pile of charred tents, cots and personal effects with blood spattered all over was all that remained on Tuesday at an EFR camp when death came on bikes.

The jawans at the Eastern Frontier Rifles (EFR) camp here had just returned from patrol duty tired last evening and were in a leisurely mood waiting to partake the meal that was being cooked only to be suddenly confronted by the marauding Maoists who had made their way from Jharkand. Most of them were in their track suits or lungis.

The attack left 24 jawans dead and a trail of devastation after about 100 rebels who came mostly on motorbikes overran the Shilda camp, 75 km from Midnapore town, opening fire and lobbing hand-grenades in the biggest-ever offensive by Maoists against security forces in West Bengal.

Three women were among the attackers who planted landmines at the camp before they fled the scene, Police said.

At least 30 sophisticated arms, including Kalashnikovs, AK series, Insas, Semi-Automatic rifles, were looted from the camp, an official said.

Located inside the walled premises of a Primary Health Centre on an arterial road crossing, the camp could accommodate 48 jawans, but there were 36 when the assailants swooped down. And in minutes, lives of 24 jawans were snuffed out.

Bodies lay strewn across the tents still smouldering several hours after the daring attack. Some troopers who were resting in their tents were burnt alive as the ultras set the camp ablaze.

Terror-stricken villagers were seen witnessing the scene from a distance.

The dazed colleagues of the victims were yet to come to terms with the ferocity of the attack at the camp which was bustling with activity just 24 hours ago.

"I was making rotis when I heard a loud explosion. Thena bus arrived. They got down and started firing. Everyone panicked. I ran. I could not take it anymore. I climbed over the wall and escaped," an eyewitness at the camp Rakesh Lepcha, a cook, said.

A visiting agency correspondent saw a few dazed survivors loitering aimlessly inside the camp, in no mood to recollect the nightmare that they went through.

"Please don't ask us anything," a jawan said.

One of his colleagues, however, was somewhat forthcoming and agreed to give an account of the attack although on condition of anonymity.

"They were around 100 and came on motorbikes. There were three vehicles as well including a pick-up van. They first started hurling grenades into the camp and some tents caught fire. The sentries opened fire in self-defence, but the Maoists fired from sophisticated weapons as the area plunged into utter confusion," he said.

Most of the jawans present at the camp when the attack was launched were killed in the firing that went on for nearly half an hour. Some of them could, however, escape by scaling the wall or through a wicket gate, he said.

Following the initial assault, the attackers rushed inside the camp and set some tents ablaze in which the furniture and personal belongings of the jawans were gutted.

The attack on the camp situated in this small market town has generated a morbid fear among the residents a large number of whom gathered outside the camp to take a look at the devastation.

A shopkeeper at the market said that some of the shops outside the camp were also set afire by the Maoists. "They came from two directions, but while leaving they fled towards Binpur," he said.


First Published: Tuesday, February 16, 2010, 18:40

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