Vijayawada, October 24
At least 24 Maoists — some top leaders among them — were gunned down in a fierce gun battle with security forces in Odisha's Malkangiri district on the border with Andhra Pradesh on Monday — a major blow to the insurgents.
A senior commando of the elite anti-Naxal force, Greyhounds, of Andhra Pradesh was also killed, while another commando was injured in the encounter that took place in the cut-off area of remote Chitrakonda on Andhra-Odisha border, Malkangiri SP Mitrabhanu Mohapatra said.
"The bodies of 24 Maoists, including that of some women, were recovered from the site after the joint operation conducted by the Odisha police and Greyhounds, while a few of the rebels are suspected to have fled," the SP said.
He said two senior Greyhounds commandos, who were injured in the gun battle in early hours of Monday had been airlifted to Visakhapatnam for treatment and one of them, identified as Abubacker, succumbed to injuries in a hospital there. The other commando is undergoing treatment.
(Follow The Tribune on Facebook; and Twitter @thetribunechd)
Some high-ranking Maoist leaders, including Uday and Chalapati — who carried huge bounties on their heads — are suspected to be among those killed in the encounter that took place in a mountainous forest area between Bejing and Muchiputam under Panasput grampanchyat, the police said.
Stating that the operation was launched on the basis of intelligence inputs, Odisha GDP KB Singh said 10 rifles, four AK-47 rifles, three SLRs, kit bags and huge ammunition have been recovered from the site and search operation was continuing.
There was information about the presence of cadres of Andhra Odisha Border Special Zonal Committee in the area and Odisha police teams also got it verified that Naxal camps were operating there, the DGP said.
"Since the area is located in the cut-off area on Andhra-Odisha border, the operation was launched from the other side and Greyhounds took the lead," Singh said.
Meanwhile, arrangements are being made to airlift the bodies of the dead Maoists to Malkangiri, the SP said, adding that search operations had intensified in the forest in Andhra-Odisha border areas.
Noting that the encounter site was located in a highly remote area that is accessible by road only through Andhra Pradesh, he said the bodies are to be airlifted by helicopter to Malkangiri.
Malkangiri served as a major transit belt of the Naxals. In September 2013, as many as 13 Maoists were killed in an exchange of fire with the police in the Padia area of Malkangiri district.
The operation is seen as a revenge of the attack on June 29, 2008, when Maoists had ambushed a boat carrying Greyhound jawans in the reservoir at Alampaka. Altogether 38 persons, including 35 Greyhound jawans from Andhra Pradesh, had been killed in the attack.
Andhra Pradesh DGP (in charge) Nanduri Sambasiva Rao, who flew down to Visakhapatnam in afternoon, said Maoists continued to fire at the police parties.
"They are still firing. We are asking them to stop…not sure if the firing has stopped," he told reporters at Visakhapatnam airport.
Gajarla Ravi, who took part in the peace talks with AP government in 2004 along with top Maoist leader Ramakrishna, had been functioning as the Maoist Andhra-Odisha Border (AOB) zone secretary.
Some reports suggested that Ramakrishna, who is from Andra Pradesh’s Guntur district gave a slip to police from the encounter site on Sunday morning even as unconfirmed reports suggested that his son Munna, who joined the Maoists recently, was among those killed.
The top Maoist had leaders assembled in their "den" in the Malkangiri forests for a plenum when the alleged encounter took place around 6.45 am.
Gajarla Ravi had been active in the Naxal movement for more than two decades.
One of his brothers, Gajarla Saraiah alias Azad, was also killed in an encounter with police in Warangal district (now in Telangana) a few years ago while another brother Ashok had recently surrendered to the police due to ill health.
Another top Maoist leader, Ramachandra Reddy alias Chalapati, from Chittoor district of AP — who went into hiding more than four decades ago — was also said to be among the 24 ultras killed in the encounter.
This was the third major "encounter" between the Maoists and security forces in the AOB region in which the former suffered heavy casualties.
Meanwhile, civil society leaders have demanded an inquiry by a sitting judge of High Court into the encounter.
"It was not an exchange of fire as being claimed by police. The Maoists, who were closeted in a meeting, were gunned down," AP Civil Liberties Committee leader Srirama Murthy alleged. — PTI
Most Read In 24 Hours
Don't MissView All
Spouses of H-1B visa holders can work in US, says judge; a large number of Indians to benefit
The H-1B visa is a non-immigrant visa that allows US compani...
Mamata Banerjee sits on dharna to protest against 'stoppage' of funds to West Bengal
The chief minister is staging a two-day-long sit-in to prote...