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Before Chhattisgarh blast: Message over wireless, IEDs covered with carbon paper

A day earlier, more than 100 DRG personnel from five camps on the Dantewada-Naraynpur axis had embarked on an anti-Maoist operation that yielded little success.

A memorial bearing the names of slain security personnel forms the backdrop to the five bodies neatly lined up in white coffins, clad in the Tricolour. Their families reach out to touch their images, affixed to one end of the boxes. Ministers, policemen and other officials offer flowers.

On Wednesday, as the bodies of the five tribal District Reserve Guard (DRG) personnel—killed in an IED blast in Chhattisgarh’s Narayanpur district—were sent back to their home villages, the chain of events leading to their deaths is coming into clearer focus, with officials pointing to possible human errors.

A day earlier, more than 100 DRG personnel from five camps on the Dantewada-Naraynpur axis had embarked on an anti-Maoist operation that yielded little success. As per protocol, no conversation was held over the wireless during its duration.

Senior officials now believe Maoists triggered the IED after discovering the plans of the security personnel to return—plans that were transmitted by one team over the wireless on Tuesday afternoon.

This, senior officials believe, could have been one of the fateful mistakes that led to the deaths.

But that was not the only factor. Security forces usually conduct a de-mining operation and send out a “road-opening party” in Maoist-affected areas where there is the danger of an attack. For this operation, too, the set procedures were followed, says Chhattisgarh DGP DM Awasthi. But the IEDs, suspected to have been placed months ago, still could not be detected. The reason? The wire connections—laid out in a hurry—were wrapped in carbon paper, leaving them untraceable to demining equipment.

“This can be a possible human error, we are doing a proper investigation as to who are responsible for the death of our men. We are also going to run more intel-based sensitive operations to root out the Naxals,” Awasthi said.

On Tuesday, when a bus and a Bolero SUV moved from the Kademeta camp, three IEDs planted just 4 km away on a bridge over a small nullah were triggered in a series from the base of a nearby tree.

The explosives collectively weighed more than 40 kg. While the Bolero had moved ahead, it was the bus that took the full force of the blast.

“The blast occurred under the bus engine, causing the gearbox and the engine to explode. The bus fell headlong into the nullah, taking the high tension electricity wires along with it, which snapped clean. The bus then turned turtle at the base, trapping several inside,” a senior security personnel said. Of the 28 inside, 16 suffered minor injuries. Seven were airlifted to Raipur and are out of danger.

“We were sitting at the back, and after the blast, we got out through the emergency exit and fired at the men in distance, who were running away. We then started helping the others. Three however, including the driver, had died on the spot, both due to blast and impact injuries,” one of the DRG men said.

At the location of the blast on Wednesday, security personnel can be seen carrying out a thorough de-mining operation, leaving nothing to chance. The crater on the road, measuring at least 7 feet across, has been filled, but parts of the bus still lie scattered all around. Even as the damaged front portion of the vehicle lies tangled in electric wire, parts of the drivers’ seat, the radio and the gearbox are scattered over a radius of more than 10 m.

East of the bridge, in a thicket, is the aforesaid tree with a curved base—a vantage point for the Maoists, according to the DRG personnel on duty. “There were two or three people, sitting here, who triggered the blast. In a hole we found the wires and they were connected to the bridge, covered in leaves,” an inspector-level official said. He added: “It was not even covered up (properly), the holes were there for us to see. Even the wires looked brand new. It seems that the wires were bought hardly a couple of days ago and in a hurry, were connected to the IED.”

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