Lalgarh, West Bengal: A massive hunt is on to track down Maoists who fled after a gun battle that left eight of them dead near this rebel stronghold in West Bengal, the state police chief said Thursday.
"Search operations are on in some localities from where we are getting information that the Maoists may have taken shelter after running away from the Ranjha forest," Director General of Police Bhupinder Singh told reporters in Kolkata.
In a major success, security forces raided a Maoist camp in Duli village Wednesday and killed the eight, including three women, after a six-hour gunfight. A huge cache of arms and ammunition was seized from the site.
While Bhupinder Singh claimed that 12 Maoists may have been killed, with four bodies taken away by their comrades, a police officer here said: "We are getting information that many more Maoists were killed." "We can`t give you the exact figure without verification," Deputy Superintendent of Police (Operations) Anish Sarkar informed reporters.
The Maoists have admitted that five of the dead were members of their armed wing, the People`s Liberation Guerrilla Army (PLGA).
While Arjun was a `sectional deputy commandant`, the other four were identified as Mangal as well as Malati, Ragho and Ganga - all three women.
An injured boy in his teens, arrested from the spot, is to be produced in a court Thursday.
Meanwhile, the pro-Maoist People`s Committee Against Police Atrocities (PCAPA) has put up a banner at the entry in Duli village calling the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) "hooligans" and blaming the police and paramilitary forces for the killings.
Following information that 40-45 rebels had set up base in the forest, the paramilitary troopers and state police raided the spot under Sarkar`s leadership.
With the recovery of AK-47 assault rifles, the police are suspecting that a high-ranking rebel leader could have been present there.
Under the Maoist chain of command, only a senior leader is permitted to carry an AK-47. Top Maoist leader Koteshawar Rao alias Kishanjee carries an AK-56.
Apart from West Midnapore, Maoists are active in Bankura and Purulia districts of West Bengal.