Maoists behind Kuneru rail accident in Andhra Pradesh, says NIA

VIJAYANAGARAM: The National Investigation Agency (NIA) suspects Maoists involvement in the Kuneru rail accident in Andhra Pradesh and an FIR has been registered in this regard. At least 34 passengers were killed and over 60 injured as the engine and nine coaches of the Jagdalpur-Bhubaneswar Hirakhand Express derailed in Vizianagaram district of Andhra Pradesh on 22 January. The Railways had suspected that tampering of the track near Kuneru station led to the derailment of the train.

“There is a strong indication of tampering with the track as the area is known to be a Naxal-prone zone and as Republic Day was approaching. Foul play cannot be ruled out,” sources had told PTI.

Meanwhile, Maoists early on Friday attacked a railway station in Odisha’s Rayagada district, triggered a blast and put up posters protesting against the proposed visit of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to the state next month. The Maoists left behind handwritten posters opposing the policies of Narendra Modi government at the Centre and Naveen Patnaik regime in Odisha, officials said.

the FIR registered by the NIA on Kuneru incident said: “The Central government is of the opinion that the act of derailment is a suspected terrorist act by Left-wing extremists and is a scheduled offence under the NIA Act.”

The intelligence is not definitive as a senior NIA official said it was preliminary information and the probe was yet to be completed and they were exploring all angles. Since the area is close to the Maoist-affected zone, the suspicion of their involvement cannot be ruled out, an official told The Hindu.

One India reported that the NIA has booked a case against the Left-wing extremists under Section 150 of the Railways Act. A case under Sections 16 and 18 of the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act has also been booked. Kuneru, where the accident occurred is situated in Komrada Mandal of Vizianagaram district, 10 kilometres away from the Andhra-Odisha border.

Naxalites targeting trains is not something unknown. One India reported that in 2010, Naxalites had removed the fish plates on the track as a result of which a goods train crashed into the Gyaneshwari Express in which 100 people were killed. The incident took place near Jhargam in West Bengal.

According to One India, in another incident Naxalites in 2005 had looted a train in Kuneru. Three security personnel were killed in that incident before the Naxals looted Rs 15 lakh from a train.

The Hindu reported that based on Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu’s letter to Home Minister Rajnath Singh which alleges sabotage in at least six train accidents, three cases were transferred to the NIA. The report added that the other two cases being investigated for terror links are the Kanpur train accident when 14 coaches of the Indore-Patna Express derailed on 20 November, 2016, killing more than 140 people and the recovery of a pressure cooker bomb near the rail track at Ghorasan in Bihar on 1 October, 2016.

The possible reason for the Kanpur accident was earlier reported to be a rail fracture, but a recent report by Bihar police revealed a possible connection to Pakistan’s intelligence agency ISI which made the derailment look like a terrorist attack. Even the Kuneru incident was suspected to the work of ISI until reports of involvement of Naxalites emerged.