Police have recovered 12 AK-47 assault rifles from Bardah village in Bihar's Munger district, taking the total number of such weapons seized in their investigation of an interstate arms racket to 20 over the last one month.
The assault rifles, stuffed into two gunny bags, were found in a well on Thursday night. Eight AK-47s were earlier recovered in three different raids since August 29.
The Munger police, who are investigating the case in collaboration with law-enforcement teams from Jabalpur and West Bengal, termed it as one of the biggest arms hauls in the state. However, information gathered from the interrogation of key conspirators in the racket has hinted at the presence of at least 70 such weapons in various parts of the region.
Six people -- including Ordnance Depot Manager Suresh Thakur, former armyman Purushotam Lal Razak, his wife Chandrawati and local resident Mohammed Shamsher -- have been arrested in this connection so far. Another soldier, Riyazul Alam, was also from arrested from Siliguri, West Bengal, as the probe continued. He is the elder brother of Mr Shamsher.
None of the main accused have any criminal records, police said.
Munger Superintendent of Police Babu Ram said Thursday night's seizure was carried out on the basis of information acquired from the interrogation of Tanveer Alam, a resident of Bardah who was recently picked up from Jharkhand.
So far, the investigation has confirmed that weapon parts were smuggled from the Jabalpur arms depot and assembled in Munger. Police are yet to confirm if any of the assault rifles were supplied to Left-wing extremist groups or high-profile gangsters.
Police said Mr Thakur would supply the rifle parts to Mr Razak and his wife, who would then deliver the finished product to Mr Shamsher -- who was entrusted with finding buyers. The National Investigation Agency is likely to take over the case, given the high number of AK-47s recovered.
The AK-47, officially known as the Kalashnikov, is a gas-operated assault rifle that was first developed in the Soviet Union. While the weapon is not particularly accurate, it is favoured by terrorists and gangsters worldwide because of its ruggedness and capability in close-range combat situations.