15 Apr 2002
Could go higher as more rebel bodies are found
KATHMANDU, April 14 : The death toll in last Thursday nights Maoist raids in Dang district has jumped to more than 200, with Minister of State for Home Devendra Raj Kandel today confirming that more than 150 rebels had died in the attacks.
But he said that policemen scouring the jungles of Satbariya had managed to recover only 54 dead rebels from a ditch. "There are other 2-3 ditches and we will dig them up tomorrow. At this moment, I can tell you that more than 150 rebels died in the incidents," Kandel said.
With the earlier reported 52 confirmed deaths, mostly of policemen and some civilians, Kandels figures takes the death toll past 200, making this one of the deadliest government-Maoist skirmishes in the seven years of Maoist violence.
Rebels had attacked an Armed Police Force base camp in Sadbariya Thursday night. They had also launched simultaneous raids on police posts in Lamahi and Bhaluwang – all in Dang district. Forty-seven policemen died in the raids. Five more civilians in passenger buses were killed when they were shot at by rebels.
Meanwhile, our reporters in Dang K P Ghimire and Sudarshan Rijal, quoted Dang Chief District Officer, Mathur Prasad Yadav, as saying that the death toll on the Maoist side could be as much as 150.
Eyewitness in Rajapur VDC, about 23 kilometres west of Satbariya, said that they saw the rebels carrying bodies full of two tractors toward the jungle of Gangadi of the same VDC on the wee hours Friday.
Shepherds in Satbariya said that they saw dozens of rebel bodies to have scattered around the jungles located to the north and west of Satbariya. They also found headless bodies of more than a dozen rebels in the jungle areas. Almost all the slain rebels were on combat uniforms.
Dang Chief District Officer, Mathur Prasad Yadav, told The Kathmandu Post that governments security forces have intensified massive search operations in nearby jungles of Satbariya, Gangadi, Gadhawa, Kakrahawa and Chaklighat of Rampur area to confirm death toll on the Maoist side. Security sources also said they have already started search operations in possible Maoist hideouts in the district.
It has come to light that the rebels had used a large number of innocents as human shield during the Satbariya attack. Some of the women turned up to Satbariya in search of their husbands and relatives after they did not return homes for the last four days.
A woman from Bela VDC which is located to other side of the Rapti River said that she came at Satbariya to confirm whether she could be able to find out he husbands body from any of the ditches. Locals said that most of the bodies were badly mutilated while faces of others were burnt before they were dumped. The bereaved women said that the rebels had forced their husbands and relatives to use them as a human shield.
Recalling Thursday nightmare, a head constable who survived the five-hour long gunfight said, "The rebels had warned us to surrender by handing over our weapons to them. But we did not give up and fought courageously until we ran out of ammunition." He claimed that he gunned down five rebels alone.
Accountant of Lamahi Urban Development Committee, Ekraj chaudhary, said that a tractor of the Committee and a truck of a businessman, looted on Thursday night by the rebels, were recovered from Arjun Khola near Rampur VDC on Sunday morning. Owners of two other vehicles, captured by the rebels while raiding the police stations, have recovered from Chaklighat.
Chaulahi VDC Chairman Rewati Raman Sharma said that the APF personnel suffered heavy casualties because the APF base camp was located at Satbariya, an isolated area, only to provide safety to Home Minister Khum Bahadur Khadkas home.