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Odishatv Bureau

Kandhamal: The police today handed over the bodies of the six persons who were killed in the gun battle between cops and Maoists on Friday night to their family members after conducting post-mortem.

The last rites of the six victims, including a child and two women, will be held at their village. The six were killed during an exchange of fire between rebels and security forces in a forest near Gumudumaha village of Kandhamal district on Friday night.

The deceased have been identified as former Naib Sarpanch Kukal Digal, Lutu Digal, Krimeli Mallick, Bimbuli Mallick, Midialie Mallick and two-year-old Gheheja Digal.

The incident occurred when an auto-rikshaw in which they were returning from Baliguda market to their village got caught in the crossfire. Since it was dark and raining heavily, they failed to trace the police or rebels in position for encounter.

Kandhamal SP Pinak Mishra had told reporters that the security forces had been tipped off about the presence of ultras. Accordingly, a special squad had prepared itself for ambush in the forest area. When the rebels fired at the forces from the top of a hill, the forces retaliated during which the civilians' auto rickshaw came in the line of fire, he said.

It was not known whether they were killed in Maoist firing or security forces, the SP said adding an inquiry will be held into the incident.

Meanwhile, the villagers blocked the state highway demanding Rs 50 lakh compensation to the kin of the deceased and withdrawal of forces from the area.

Questions were raised why the police did not seal the road in the forest when they planned for the ambush saying it was a violation of standard operating procedure?

Expressing serious concern over the death of the six, Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik announced a judicial inquiry into the incident and compensation worth Rs 5 lakh and a job to a member of the family of each victim.

But rejecting the judicial inquiry as long, cumbersome and ineffective, human rights activist Biswapriya Kanungo has demanded an SIT probe into what he called the wanton killing of innocent, unsuspecting people.

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