Maoists abduct nine; high alert issued

Bhubaneswar/Berhampur: Suspected Maoists allegedly kidnapped nine persons from two villages in Mathili block in Odisha’s Malkangiri district bordering Chhattisgarh, which witnessed back-to-back Naxal violence in the last three days.

Those abducted late last night include Trinath Bhumia, a former block chairman of Mathili. While five abducted persons belonged to Kirtanpalli village, two hailed from nearby Barha village, sources said.

“It is suspected that a group of Maoists was involved in the incident. The nine persons were called out of their houses and taken away,” Director General of Police Sanjeev Marik told reporters.

“We are in constant touch with the Malkangiri SP and details are awaited,” he said.

“We have received information in this regard. A police team has been sent to the villages. The police can confirm the incident only after the team reaches villages bordering Chhattisgarh,” said Malkangiri SP Mitrabhanu Mohapatra, adding the reported villages are located in a difficult terrain.

A report reaching the district headquarters said a group of armed Maoists entered the villages after midnight and asked ward member of Kirtanpalli village for discussion. Then, they kidnapped the nine people at gun-point, sources said.

Meanwhile, panic gripped the area after the abduction.

Police have launched a search operation to locate the tribals. The police has also sounded a high alert in six Maoist affected districts following a combing operation in the Sukma area of Chhattisgarh.

“We are keeping a close eye on the movement of Maoists. We have sounded alert in the bordering districts,” Marik said, adding that intelligence gathering had also been strengthened.

On the other hand, in the wake of a series of Naxal attacks on securitymen in neighbouring Chhattisgarh, a high alert was today sounded in Maoist-hit districts of Odisha, particularly in the southern region.

Police personnel have been put on alert in Maoist-affected districts, particularly in areas bordering Chhattisgarh, Marik said.

While security forces have been alerted after the Chhattisgarh incidents, Superintendents of Police in Maoist-hit districts have been asked to keep a close watch on movements of suspicious persons, he said.

Police apprehend that the left-wing ultras might cross over to Odisha’s Maoist-hit areas following intensified search operation in the neighboring state after violence in last three days in Sukma, Dantewada and Kanker districts.

The SPs of all Naxal-hit districts are in a state of high alert in view of possibility of cross-border movement of Maoists from Chhattisgarh, Inspector General of Police (South West), Y K Jethwa said.

While the emphasis is on strict adherence to standard operating procedure (SOP), intelligence network has also been strengthened, he said

CPI (Maoist) cadre from Chhattisgarh were trying their best to strengthen the organisation in border areas of Ganjam, Gajapati, Kandhamal, Boudh and Rayagada after the arrest of Sabyasachi Panda, founder leader of Odisha Maobadi Party (OMP) on July 17, last year, police suspected.

“Combing operation has been intensified in Kandhamal district following the incidents in Chhattisgarh. We have also asked our personnel to maintain strict vigil on the movement of suspicious people in vulnerable areas,” said SP (Kandhamal) KV Singh.

“Search was conducted in the long-route vehicles passing through the district, while anti-Maoist operation intensified,” added SP (Gajapati) S.Nayak. He, however, ruled out engaging more forces in the anti-Maoist operation.

Besides police, Central Reserve Police Forces, District Volunteer Forces (DVF) and BSF were deployed in the operation.

There has been no major Maoist-related violence in these districts after the arrest of Sabyasachi Panda last year, but police unearthed a huge quantity of arms, ammunition and Maoist literature from Kandhamal and Ganjam districts during the course of search operations in past months.

While a 7-kg landmine was dug out from Gochhapada area last month, security forces recovered three arms dumps in Khadisaru jungle in Ganjam-Kandhmal districts border and seized a huge cache of arms and ammunition on January 25 this year.