NIA probes Chhattisgarh attack, Antony rules out army role

Raipur/New Delhi, May 27 (IANS) Sleuths of the NIA Monday surveyed the site of Saturday’s deadly Maoist attack in Chhattisgarh and spoke to the injured in a hospital in Raipur even as the defence ministry ruled out any army role in fighting the rebels and the union home ministry asked the troubled states to review politicians’ security.

National Investigation Agency (NIA) members arrived in Chhattigarh’s Sukma district and inspected the Dharbha Ghati Valley where the Maoists’ attack on Congress leaders Saturday left nearly 30 people dead, including the party’s state chief and the ‘Salwa Judum’ founder, an official said in Raipur.

A group of NIA investigators also spoke to some of the injured survivors of the attack in a hospital in Raipur around 7 p.m., he said.

A huge contingent of paramilitary was present at the attack spot, over 350 km from Raipur, and some teams of the troopers even went into the forest in pursuit of the Maoists involved in the Saturday attack, an officials said.

“There is a possibility that the Maoists involved in the attack would have crossed into neighbouring Andhra Pradesh,” said a police official in Sukma.

A massive anti-Maoist combing operation is likely, he said.

In New Delhi, Minister of State for Home R.P.N. Singh said: “There have been security lapses and the NIA will investigate the whole case.”

“Punishment has to be meted out to someone, whoever is responsible, at the centre level or state level. The buck has to stop somewhere,” Singh told reporters.

Home ministry officials said Maoist-affected states had been asked to review the security of political leaders in the wake of the brutal attack.

An advisory issued to the states asked them to take steps so that the activities of political parties were not affected in view of any threat by the Maoists, ministry sources said.

In Gurgaon, close to Delhi, Congress leader V.C. Shukla, who was critically injured in Saturday’s Maoist attack, continued to remain critical.

Naresh Trehan, chairman and managing director of Medanta Medicity where Shukla is being treated, told reporters: “He is critical, and recovery will require lot of time because of his age. But we are confident we will get him through.”

Defence Minister A.K. Antony told reporters in Tamil Nadu that the deployment of the army in anti-Maoist operations was not possible.

Speaking to reporters at Thanjavur, around 340 km from Chennai, Antony said the real answer to the problem was to strengthen police and paramilitary forces to counter the rebels.

Congress president Sonia Gandhi and vice president Rahul Gandhi led party workers in New Delhi in paying homage to party colleagues killed in Chattisgarh.

Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) president Rajnath Singh said that a court-monitored Special Investigation Team should investigate the killing of Congress leaders in Chhattisgarh.

In Mumbai, Shiv Sena president Uddhav Thackeray wrote in an editorial piece in the party’s mouthpiece Saamna saying that there was a need to “crush” the terror unleashed by “Maoist devils”.

Thackeray condemned the Maoist attack in Chhattisgarh that virtually left the state Congress headless and said the treatment meted out to terrorists like Ajmal Amir Kasab and Afzal Guru should also extend to those responsible for the Saturday’s strike.

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