In a bid to counter anti-Naxal operation by the security forces, armed Maoists blew up a block office at Podia town on Tuesday night using powerful explosives.
A group of 40 to 50 armed cadres barged into the block office, 70 km from here, at around 2 am after breaking the lock. They then set the building on fire before triggering a powerful blast, causing extensive damage to the structure. Such was the impact of the explosion that four of the five rooms in the asbestos-roof block office were razed to ground. Several volumes of documents and important records were damaged. There was no human casualty though.
The Maoists forced the watchman guarding the place to vacate the building at gun-point before triggering the blast. The slogan shouting ultras then escaped into the nearby forest in the cover of darkness.
Sources said they escaped to the bordering Chhattisgarh by crossing a river. A handwritten poster found from the site stated that the attack was in protest against the killing of Madhav in a fake encounter, Silakota fake encounter and killing of Gangi Madhi, a minor girl in September this year. The poster also sought a halt to anti-Naxal operation and withdrawal of the BSF from the region.
SP Akhileswar Singh said cadres of Kalimela division of the outlawed CPI(Maoist) outfit, who have recently shifted their base from Kalimela to Podia along with ultras from Chhattisgarh, were involved in the attack.
Security experts have described the latest Maoist attack as an outcome of intelligence failure. Though the Podia police station and the Indian Reserve Battalion (IRB) camp are less than 2 km from the blast site, police could not get any inputs about the attack.
Podia has of late become a soft target for Maoists who easily escape to Chhattisgarh after the attacks by crossing a narrow river that divides Odisha from the neighbouring State.The SP said the attack was a desperate attempt by the Maoists to counter stepped up anti-Naxal operations mounted by the security forces in the region.
The Maoists had blown up a new building of Podia block office in September, 2010, following which the office was functioning from the old building, which has now been destroyed in the pre-dawn attack.
On March 25, 2009, Maoists had razed a police outpost, a Government building and damaged a BSNL communication tower at Podia.
Panic gripped the people of the area following the attacks and most of the employees of the block office have fled from Malkangiri fearing Maoist violence, sources said.