Top Naxal leaders among 24 killed in encounter
Malkangiri: At least 24 Maoists, including their top leaders, were gunned down in a fierce gun-battle with security forces in Malkangiri district on the border with Andhra Pradesh, giving a major blow to the ultras.
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 the wee hours, 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.
Some high-ranking Maoist leaders, including Uday and Chalapati who carried heavy rewards on their heads, were confirmed 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.
The deceased Maoists have been identified as Aruna Chalapati, Gajrala Ravi, Daya, Venkat Ravana, Munna (son of dreaded Maoist Ramakrishna) & Pengal Suresh.
Stating that the operation was launched on the basis of intelligence inputs, Odisha GDP K B 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 (AOBSZC) 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.
The SP said the bodies of the slain Maoists were airlifted to Malkangiri and combing operation was also intensified in the forest in Andhra-Odisha border areas to locate bodies, if any, and the fleeing Maoists.
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 hails from Guntur district in Andhra Pradesh, gave a slip to police from the encounter site this morning. 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.
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.