9 CRPF jawans killed in Sukma Maoist attack
NEW DELHI: Nine CRPF jawans were killed and two others injured as Maoists blew up a mine-protected vehicle (MPV) in Chhattisgarh’s Sukma district on Tuesday, days after the killing of 10 ultras by Greyhounds personnel on the Telangana-Chhattisgarh border. The blast triggered by an IED occurred about 80km west from the spot where 12 CRPF men were killed in an ambush by Naxals on March 11 last year. The IED was so powerful that it ripped apart the heavily armoured vehicle like a tin can and hurled it in the air, sending bodies flying in all directions. Some bodies were found hurled 20 to 30 feet away. The CRPF jawans — all in civvies — were rushing to reinforce a COBRA unit that was pursuing Maoists after an early morning encounter near Kistaram camp. The rebels retreated, veered around and attacked the patrol party. Sources said there were nearly 150 Maoists near the blast site. “Nine CRPF jawans of 212 Battalion were martyred and two injured when Maoists triggered an IED under an anti-landmine vehicle while they were out for patrolling from Kistaram to Palodi in Sukma district. They were only 1km from the nearest camp in Palodi,” special DGP (anti-Maoist operations) D M Awasthi told TOI. COBRA commandos had engaged the rebels in a gunfight at 8am after which the Maoists retreated. “Seeing the retaliation by COBRA jawans, the Naxals initially retreated into the forest. Again, at about 11.30am, they targeted another team of 212 Battalion CRPF in Kistaram,” said CRPF spokesperson Dinakaran Moses.
The explosions were triggered around noon. “We have airlifted the injured to Raipur for treatment. The bodies of the martyred jawans, too, will be flown to the state capital,” Awasthi added. The martyrs hailed from UP, Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka, Bihar, Rajasthan and Odisha. Union home minister Rajnath Singh expressed his condolences and tweeted: “I pray for the speedy recovery of the injured jawans. I spoke to DG CRPF regarding the Sukma incident and asked him to leave for Chhattisgarh”. Chhattisgarh CM Raman Singh condemned the “cowardly attack”. Only a day ago, he had embarked on his month-long Lok Suraj Abhiyan from a remote village in a Maoist-affected area of Dantewada. “Maoists are facing a crisis and fears about their existence due to rapid development work in Bastar. They oppose development and try to mislead local tribals. When infuriated, they attack our security personnel. It displays the anti-people and anti-development mindset of the Naxalites,” he said, praying for the speedy recovery of the injured jawans. At a high-level meeting, the CM asked security forces to intensify operations in Maoist-hit areas of Bastar.
Army rescues 680 from Sela Pass
Kolkata: The Army rescued 680 people, including locals and tourists, from Sela Pass near Tawang in Arunachal Pradesh on Monday. The rescue operations in 320 vehicles continued till late into the night. Situated nearly 13,700ft on the border between Tawang and West Kameng districts of Arunachal Pradesh, the pass connects the town of Tawang to Dirang and Guwahati. Those rescued included a one-and-a-half-year-old child who faced breathing difficulty and a 70-year-old tourist whose BP had spiked to more than 200. The critically ill patients were stabilized at the medical post at Ahirgarh and later evacuated. “More than 2ft of snow fell since yesterday noon and a large number of vehicles got stuck in sub-zero temperatures between Ahirgarh and Sela Pass. Three rescue teams from the nearest base at Baisakhi worked till midnight. All the people and vehicles were brought to safety. One team led by Havildar Prasan Rai working north of Sela extricated 188 vehicles and nearly 400 civilians stuck inside them to the rescue camp established at Jaswantgarh by 7.30pm from where they could move down on their own,” an Army officer said. Rescue work in sub-zero temperatures at an altitude of more than 13,000ft in a hazardous terrain under failing ambient light posed a formidable challenge. The troops of Baisakhi Brigade of the Blazing Sword Division under the Army’s Eastern Command toiled for more than seven hours to get all to safety. Sudden heavy snowfall at the location had led to a massive rescue effort by the Army on March 18, 2017; 127 civilians were rescued.
Ponneri, Madhavaram blazes keep firemen in rescue mode
CHENNAI: Firemen in the city had to be at the top of their game on Tuesday, after two blazes broke out in Ponneri and Madhavaram. In the accident reported at Madhavaram, the blaze gutted the fabricated steel and other materials kept at a godown at Vathiyar Thottam. A guard noticed smoke rising from the godown and alerted the fire and rescue services department. Before firemen arrived, the blaze had devastated most of the stock within. Firemen in three fire tenders from Madhavaram, Perambur and Tondiarpet rushed to the spot. A blaze in Ponneri burned down part of a cardboard manufacturing unit in Irulipattu village. No one was hurt. The wind caused the fire to spread to cardboard bundles in the processing and delivery sections of the unit. Fire tenders from Red Hills, Gummidipoondi and Ponneri were pressed into service. The police said a short-circuit may have triggered the blaze.
Theft worth Rs 7 lakh at IRS officer’s house
AHMEDABAD: Thieves struck at the residence of an IRS officer currently posted in Moscow, Russia, and stole valuables worth Rs 7.8 lakh. According to Ghatlodia police, Shailesh Shah, a resident of Anmol Residency Shahibaug, was entrusted with looking after the residence of Piyush Raval and Vrinda Gohil at Tirthnagar Society III, Memnagar, when Gohil, an IRS officer previously posted in Ahmedabad, was transferred to Moscow. “After the family left for Russia on March 3, Shah would visit the residence regularly for cleaning and maintenance. He visited it at 8pm on March 10 and locked it after getting it cleaned. The next day, Shah was out on a social function. On March 12, when he returned at 2pm to the residence, he found an iron grill on a window completely removed and placed on a bed inside,” said an official. According to the FIR, the thieves stole gold ornaments, silverware and high-end watches, all worth Rs 7.8 lakh from a safe and cupboards.
Landslide in central Croatia destroys houses amid floods
ZAGREB: A landslide caused by melting snow Tuesday destroyed several houses in central Croatia, sending people fleeing from their homes in panic. No serious injuries were reported. The landslide in the town of Hrvatska Kostajnica happened as Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic was attending an emergency session of local authorities battling floods in the area. State broadcaster HRT quoted witnesses saying people jumped out of houses and the landslide completely destroyed several dwellings in minutes. An unidentified woman told HRT that “it happened suddenly, like the wood cracking”. “When I saw the hill moving I shouted to a neighbor to run,” she said, weeping. “One man’s sheep just disappeared … I am afraid for my own house now”. Videos from the scene showed walls and roofs of some houses collapsing, others with cracks on outer walls. Plenkovic promised government aid to the people who lost their homes in the landslide. Dozens of houses have been flooded in the town as the river Una swelled amid warm weather that followed recent heavy snowfall. Croatian army and emergency crews have joined the effort to battle the floods.
Explosion strikes Palestinian PM’s convoy in Gaza
JABALIYA (GAZA STRIP): An explosion struck the convoy of the Palestinian prime minister today as he was making a rare visit to Gaza, in what his Fatah party called an assassination attempt it blamed on Gaza militants. The explosion went off shortly after the convoy entered Gaza through the Erez crossing with Israel. Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah was unharmed and went on to inaugurate a long-awaited sewage plant project in the northern part of the strip. But Fatah quickly held Gaza’s Islamic Hamas rulers responsible for the “cowardly attack” on the convoy, further escalating tensions between the bitter rival factions. Three of the vehicles in Hamdallah’s convoy were damaged, their windows blown out. One had signs of blood on the door. Hamdallah, who is based in the West Bank, arrived in Hamas-run Gaza to inaugurate the sewage plant and said there that the attack will “not deter from seeking to end the bitter split. We will still come to Gaza”. The rival factions have been trying to reconcile since 2007 when Hamas seized control of Gaza from Fatah forces and have suffered several setbacks in their efforts since. The takeover left the Palestinians with two rival governments, Hamas in Gaza and the Western-backed Palestinian Authority governing autonomous enclaves in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.
In November, Hamas handed over control of Gaza’s border crossings to the Palestinian Authority. It was the first tangible concession in years of Egyptian-brokered reconciliation talks. But negotiations have bogged down since then. Hamdallah’s visit comes amid a time of crisis in Gaza. Today, the White House is hosting a special meeting to discuss Gaza’s devastated economy. The plant in question was envisioned in 2007 after overburdened sewage reservoirs collapsed, killing five villagers. The World Bank, European Union and other European governments have paid nearly USD 75 million in funding. Hamas’ takeover of Gaza from the Palestinian Authority in 2007 and the ensuing Israeli-Egyptian blockade, power shortages and conflicts delayed the opening of the project for four years. Besides the old reservoirs, the plant will receive wastewater from four towns and villages. After treatment, the water will be transferred for irrigation and the remainder will be safely dumped to the sea.