Raipur (PTI): Amid a hail of gunfire, 299 inmates including 105 naxal activists escaped from the Dantewada jail in Chattisgarh after prison guards were overpowered in a daring jailbreak on Sunday in which three guards and two undertrials were injured.
In a major security lapse, the "pre-meditated" strike happened around 4.35 PM when the inmates were being served food during dinner time when a lone naxalite commandar Sujit Kumar overpowered a jail guard inside the prison and opened fire after snatching his rifle.
During the firing, three guards were injured, Dantewada jail sources said over phone. As many as 377 inmates are in the district prison, about 375 km from the state capital, which is located in a naxal infested area.
Principal Secretary(Home) N K Aswal said five jail officials including the jailer have been suspended in connection with the incident.
The naxals snatched one INSAS weapon, two .303 rifles and three muskets of the guards and one wireless set belonging before they fled, Home Minister Ram Vichar Netam told PTI.
Rahul Sharma, Superintendent of Police, Dantewada said the jail break was a "pre-meditated conspiracy" hatched by the undertrials, who were mostly naxal supporters.
"During the firing and clashes which lasted for about 15 minutes two naxal supporters were injured," Sharma said.
To a question, Netam admitted there was a lapse in security in and around the Dantewada jail.
Police made some preliminary search operations in the jungle near the prison to nab the inmates but called it off as night fell. A major search will be resumed on Monday, police said.
The Home Minister said that Dantewada Superintendent of Police Rahul Sharma had informed him that they are facing problems in getting into the jungle in the night to look for the escaped inmates and are waiting for the crack of dawn to start a larger search.
The neighbouring states like Maharashtra, Orissa and Andhra Pradesh have been alerted along with other districts of the state, they said.
Director General (Jail) Sant Kumar Paswan had also been asked to rush to the spot to take stock of the situation, Netam said.
Meanwhile, official sources said the District Collector and the SP have been asked separately by the state government to submit reports on the incident and after that action will be taken against the officials who are responsible for the security lapses.
The officials also admitted that the local police of Dantewada were facing problem in the search operation to trace the inmates as the incident took place in the evening.
"The Maoists have planted landmines in many places of Bastar region, including Dantewada district, and entering the jungle in the evening will be directly getting into the naxal trap of ambush," a top anti-naxal operation official said.