Naxal violence rocks 1st phase of Lok Sabha polls, 17 killed
People wait in queues to cast their votes at a polling booth during the first phase of general elections in Varanasi on Thursday. Photo: AP
Ranchi/Latehar/Gaya (PTI): Stepping up their attacks, Maoists today struck in Bihar, Jharkhand,Chhattisgarh and Orissa, killing 17 people, including five election officials and ten security personnel, and looted electronic voting machines in a bid to disrupt the first phase of polling for Lok Sabha.
Naxalites blew up a vehicle carrying poll officials in Chhattisgarh's Rajnandgaon district, killing five of them and injuring two others, police said.
They attacked polling booths and exchanged fire with security forces in Dandewada and Narainpur areas in the state, they said, adding that one CRPF jawan died of bullet wounds and five others were injured in Maruki in Dandewada, about 350 kms from Raipur. Casualty among the ultras was not known.
The naxals struck at Mangnar and Jangampal in Dantewada district and in Nernar, Sonapal and Karmari in Narainpur region, around 250 kms from the Chhattisgarh capital, Additional Director General of Police Girdhari Nayak said.
A day after attacking CRPF, the Maoists targeted a bus carrying BSF personnel in Jharkhand's Latehar area by triggering a landmine blast at around 7.30 AM leading to the death of seven personnel from the border force besides the civilian driver and helper, and injuries to several others.
Deputy Commissioner Sarvendu Tathagat in Latehar, about 125 kms from Ranchi, said the BSF personnel were returning from Ladhup to Arah after having carried of patrolling duty in naxal strongholds. A helicopter has flown to the spot for rescue operations, he said.
Voting began on a moderate note in 124 constituencies spread across 15 states and two union territories during which the fate of RJD chief Lalu Prasad, BJP's Murli Manohar Joshi and Yashwant Sinha and TRS president K Chandrasekar Rao will be decided. There are 1,715 candidates in the fray.
Over 14.31 crore voters are eligible to cast their ballot today across 1.85 lakh polling stations set up by the Election Commission and secured by tens of thousands of police personnel.
Assembly polls underway
Elections to 154 Assembly segments in Andhra Pradesh and 70 in Orissa are also being held today.
Polling began on a moderate note in Jammu-Poonch parliamentary constituency which included areas in the border region.
In Kerala, Arunachal Pradesh and Assam voters turned up in large numbers at the polling booths to exercise their franchise.
Voting would end at 1700 hrs in most places, except in naxal-infested areas where it would close at 1500 hrs.
Initial reports said 10 to 12 per cent of votes were polled in the first two hours in Arunachal Pradesh and 20 per cent in Assam.
While all 20 seats in Kerala, 11 in Chhattisgarh and two each in Arunachal Pradesh and Meghalaya went to polls in a single phase today, polling is underway in 13 out of 40 seats in Bihar, 16 out of 80 in Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra 13 (48), Andhra Pradesh 22 (42), Jharkhand 6 (14), Orissa 10 (21), Assam 3 (14), Manipur 1 (2) and Jammu and Kashmir 1 (6).
The lone seats in Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Lakshadweep, Mizoram and Nagaland are also covered in the first phase.
Prominent political heavyweights to test waters today Elections 2009 - Comprehensive coverage