Malkangiri (Odisha): At least 24 Maoists, including their top leaders, were gunned down in a fierce gun-battle with security forces in Odisha's 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 suspected 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.
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 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.
Meanwhile, arrangements are being made to airlift the bodies of the slain Maoists to Malkangiri, the SP said adding that combing operation was also intensified in the forest in Andhra-Odisha border areas to locate bodies, if any, and the fleeing Maoists.
Noting that the encounter site was located in a highly remote area which is accessible by road only through Andhra Pradesh, he said the bodies are to be airlifted by helicopter to Malkangiri.