Maharashtra’s senior police officers near the blast site in Gadchiroli

The police suspect that the bombers were from this group who travelled to Lendhri, about 50 km from the arson site, to carry out the attack

MUMBAI: About 30 kg explosives, mainly of industrial type and gelatin sticks, were used to prepare the IEDs that killed 15 security men of the quick response team (QRT) and the driver near Lendhri in Gadchiroli on Wednesday afternoon.

A police source said IED was planted underneath a culvert and was connected with an over a meter wire to the trigger device, which was pressed when the vehicle was near the road’s incline.

“Some 30 minutes before the blast, an SDO’s car had passed through the same route. This means Maoists were given specific target. Because of a culvert, there is an incline on the road and, hence, vehicles slow down while crossing it. When the QRT vehicle was manoeuvring the incline, explosives were detonated,” said a police officer from the Maharashtra DGP on the condition of anonymity. “The IED was so strong that the bodies flung as far as 60 feet,” said the official.

Another official said the police party was attending to a call made by Purada police station under whose jurisdiction an incident of arson was reported earlier in the night. The QRT decided to travel in a private vehicle and started around noon. It had travelled barely 6 km when the vehicle was blown off. “Around 2 am on Wednesday night, 27 vehicles belonging to a contractor were torched. The Purada police station wanted to carry out Panchanama of the spot and sought Kurkheda police station’s help. The team was going there to help them with the police procedure,” the official said.

“The team fell for the classic trap used by Maoists — first carry out arson and then attack a police party by planting IEDs,” said the official.

The probe has revealed that over 100 Maoists had camped at a nearby village on Tuesday night. The police suspects that the bombers were from this group who travelled to Lendhri, about 50 km from the arson site, to carry out the attack. “The small group used trees on either side of the road as cover and were ready with the trigger,” said the official.

The police suspect the blast is the handiwork of CPI (Maoist) general secretary Nambala Keshava Rao, alias Basavaraj. Basavaraj, an expert in explosives, took charge of the group in November last from Ganapathy, alias Muppala Lakshmana Rao, who stepped down owing to poor health. “Basavaraj is an expert in explosives and military techniques and has a good network with arms traders. This attack bears his imprint but the probe will ascertain which Dalam (branch) carried out the attack. After the last year’s encounter, most of the branches in Maharashtra were wiped out but our probe will look if local branches have managed to regroup or if this act was the handiwork of the branch from other states,” the official said.