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Metal scrap thieves may be behind live bombs on goods train: State police

R Krishna Das  |  Kolkata/ Raipur 

Chhattisgarh police suspect the involvement of metal scrap thieves in unloading 14 live artillery shells from a goods train that were later re-loaded in another goods train that was transporting iron-ore to Monnet Steel and Energy Limited (MSEL).

Terror from the tracks unleashed in the Chhattisgarh capital yesterday when police recovered 12 live artillery shells used by the Indian Army while unloading an iron-ore-laden goods train at the facility of steel major in Mandir Hasud—about 20 km from here. The shells were kept in six boxes having the marking of Indian Army.

Within hours of discovering the shells in Monnet plant site, the police recovered one more box near Mandhar police station on the Howrah-Mumbai rail section from where the Monnet-bound goods train from Orissa had passed on Friday night. A few hours before, a goods train carrying ammunition for the army from an Ordnance Factory in Orissa had passed through the point.

“The preliminary investigation suggested that thieves involved in lifting metal scrap had off loaded the boxes when the army train stopped at a signal in Mandhar (a small station),” a senior police official investigating the matter told Business Standard.

When they opened the boxes, they could have been shunned to see the boxes carrying high grade explosive shells, the official established. In a huff, they loaded the boxes in the Monnet-bound goods train when it stopped in the signal. Since it was dark, probably the one box was left on the tracks itself.

The officials have however heaved a sigh of relief that insurgents or terrorists were not involved in the incident. But what had baffled them was breach in the security of a goods train that was carrying ammunition of Indian Armed Forces. Each shell of 105mm ammunition category weighed 16 kg and had been used in medium range projectile rockets with a firing range of 18 km.

Generally, the goods trains carrying ammunition are not stopped in the outer signals or serenity places. But the train carrying ammunition from Orissa to an Ordnance factory near Nagpur stopped near Mandhar for more than 20 minutes. “It was in 20 minutes, the thieves could have managed to off load the boxes,” the official said.

The railway authorities however said the security personnel from Railway Protection Force (RPF) were escorting the train. “It was RPF personnel who spotted the broken seal of rake near Durg and reported the matter,” a railway official said.

The senior army officials are however reaching Chhattisgarh to probe the entire matter and look into the serious lapses at different ends that paved way for the thieves to target the highly sensitive ammunition.

First Published: Mon, December 29 2008. 00:00 IST