16 Naxals killed in Gadchiroli

In the biggest-ever blow to Naxals in Maharashtra, security forces gunned down at least 16 Red cadres in the Rela-Kasnasur forest in Gadchiroli district. While officially 16 casualties have been confirmed, the toll could go up to 25, sources said.

The joint operation by C-60 commandoes of Gadchiroli police and CRPF personnel started at 10 am near Tadgaon village in Bhamragarh tehsil, some 350 km from Nagpur near the Maharashtra-Chhattishgarh border. The encounter went on for 90 minutes and the combing operation is yet to be called off. “We are in the process of calculating the exact losses inflicted upon the Maoists as the scale of the operation and outcome are big. Many simultaneous searches are under way,” said Ankush Shinde, DIG, Naxal range. He added that the action was based on a specific intelligence input. The operation was launched from Pranhita headquarters at Aheri.

Divisional committee members Shrikant Rawthu alias Shrinu (51) and Dolesh Atram alias Sainath (36) were among those killed. While Shrinu had 82 offences registered against him during his 15-year association, Sainath had been controlling the Naxal movement in south Gadchiroli and had 75 offences against him.

Naxal cadres of four groups—Perimili dalam, Aheri dalam, Company 10 and Platoon 14—had gathered for a meeting when the security forces took them on, sources said. The cadres had been moving around in the locality in different formations, holding meetings at tribal hamlets. They were caught off-guard when firing opened on all sides.

They were not expecting an attack as the location of the meeting was deep in the forest, sources said. Two C-60 squads, under commander Vasudev Madavi and Madhukar Netam, supported by CRPF, are learnt to have surrounded the rebels, taking vantage positions that didn’t allow Naxals to escape. As they realised the strength of rebels, forces called for more reinforcements using satellite phones, sources said. After firing from rebels’ side ceased, the forces went in and began pulling out bodies, weapons and other material. The bodies were being transported to Gadchiroli district headquarters for post-mortem late in the evening.

Sources said a large cache of arms, including AK rifles, ammunition, explosives, communication gadgets, electronic material, pen drives, laptops, rucksacks and Maoist literature were recovered from the encounter site. Sources claimed many injured cadres may have dragged themselves to nearby tribal hamlets in the adjoining areas and the forces were trying to trace them. Police sources claimed the forces were already engaged in collecting inputs regarding the cadres. Chief minister Devendra Fadnavis, who also holds the home portfolio, has briefed Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh about the operation.

No comments: