Gunbattle between police and Maoists in Sambalpur

Sambalpur (Orissa): After a lull of four years, Maoists today struck in Orissa`s Sambalpur district engaging security forces in an hour-long fierce gunbattle in the forests near Tamparasinga.

A team comprising CRPF and elite anti-Naxal SOG personnel of Orissa were conducting combing operations in the forests when they were fired upon by the ultras near Kuilijharan around 7 AM, police said.

The security men retaliated and the gun-battle continued for over an hour. The ultras are believed to have retreated into the woods, police said.

No security personnel was injured in the incident, police said, adding casualties in the ranks of the rebels was not known.

Meanwhile, police personnel engaged in anti-Maoists operation in the district have been mobilised in the area and Superintendent of Police Nikhil Kanodia was camping at nearby police station at Kisinda to supervise the operation.

The district had not seen major Maoist activity in the last four years, police said.

Quoting eyewitnesses, police said nearby villagers had spotted a group of Maoists including a few from Jharkhand, roaming around in the Ganakhaman forests to mobilise and regroup the Maoist cadres in the area.

Maoist violence had first surfaced in the district in January 2003 after the killing of a sarpanch under Jujumura police station. So far, 11 civilians and police personnel and two Maoists have been killed in the district.

Combing operations in the area have been intensified.