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Maoists want 8 rebels freed for 4 Bihar cops; deadline ends today

Patna: Time is running out for the four Bihar policemen abducted by Maoists as the rebels’ deadline for releasing their eight jailed commanders expires around 4 pm Wednesday, failing which they would kill all the captives.

Maoists abducted the policemen during the six-hour-long gunfight in Lakhisarai district Sunday. The gun battle left seven policemen killed and 10 injured. Maoists claimed that the gunfight was in retaliation to the staged shootout in which Maoist leader Azad and a journalist were killed.

The families of four abducted policemen have appealed to Chief Minister Nitish Kumar to release the eight jailed Maoist commanders for the safe release of their kin.

“We have requested the chief minister to release Maoists to ensure safe release of my son,” Manju Sinha, the mother of Rupesh Kumar Sinha, one of the four abducted policemen, said by phone from Bettiah in West Champaran district.

Rajni Devi, the wife of Abhay Yadav, another abducted policeman, met Nitish Kumar Tuesday evening and returned with assurance that the state government would rescue her husband soon.

According to an official source in the Chief Minister’s Office here, Nitish Kumar is himself supervising the rescue operations of the four abducted policemen.

“Nitish Kumar is instructing policemen engaged in rescue operations as his government’s image is at stake ahead of the upcoming state assembly polls,” the official source said.

Bihar police chief Neelmani and senior police officials have been working for rescuing the four abducted policemen.

Police have made it clear they would not bow to the Maoists’ demand to release eight jailed rebel commanders to secure freedom of the four abducted policemen.

“The state government has not received any ultimatum from the Maoists in this connection. We have got information through the media about Maoists’ ultimatum… and it may or may not be true,” Neelmani said.

Neelmani said rescue operations have been launched by combined forces of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) and Special Task Force of Bihar police in the hilly terrain of Lakhisarai and its adjoining Jamui and Munger districts.

Maoist spokesperson Avinash said he had already communicated the rebels’ demand to the chief minister’s official residence to release eight Maoist commanders lodged in Bihar jails. “In case the government fails to release them, we will be compelled to kill the four policemen,” he said.

The Maoists’ ultimatum to the Bihar government was issued Tuesday. The rebels said they would start killing the abducted policemen Wednesday afternoon.

Avinash, who is the spokesman for Maoists of Jamui, Munger, Lakhisarai, Banka and Bhagalpur districts, described the attack on police as the rebels’ answer to the government’s Operation Green Hunt against them.

He also warned the Bihar government of more violent attacks if the operations against Maoists were not immediately stopped.

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