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Rebels, cops exchange fire
- First crossfire at forest area

Bhubaneswar, June 10: Two rebels are suspected to have been killed in an exchange of fire between a group of special operation police of Orissa and ultras at Kaliathala forest area in Kankadahada block on Sunday.

But the bodies are yet to be traced as per the last reports.

Today’s crossfire, the first of its kind in the district, happened nearly four months after three forest officials were killed by rebels there.

Police sources said the exchange happened when some members of the combing party of the special operation group of Orissa police went to fetch water at a spring in Kaliathala forests, not far from the place where the forest staff were killed.

On spotting the party, the Maoists started firing indiscriminately at the police, who then retaliated.

About 120 rounds were fired in an exchange, which lasted for 30-odd minutes. Afterwards, the rebels retreated into the forest.

“At least, two Maoists are suspected to be killed in the police firing,” said North Central deputy inspector-general of police (DIG) Arun Sarangi, who added that there were about 15 to 16 people in the red group, including women.

The police were upbeat about the fact that the some damage was done. “Their camp has been totally demolished,” claimed DIG Sarangi.

Police have also seized a heavy cache of arms and ammunition, including an SLR rifle, a revolver, a flask bomb, 75 live bullets, food, medicines and Maoist uniforms from the spot.

“The particular group has been active in the area for sometime and were involved in the forest staff killings. We also suspect that the same group was involved in the extortion cases at Keonjhar and destruction of mining equipment,” said Sarangi.

So far, the combing operation has been intensified and additional forces would be deployed if required, the top police officer added.

On February 1, Maoists had stuck at Keonjhar-Jajpur-Dhenkanal border at the beathouse located inside the Kankadahada forests where a forester, three forest guards and a cook were asleep. All five were woken up and summoned to the open.

While the two forest guards and the cook managed to flee, the Maoists dragged forester Ghanshyam Behera (50) and the remaining forest guards, Kumud Samal (24) and Nilamani Mallick (52), a few yards away. The men were first stoned and their throats were slit open before being gunned down dead.

Intelligence sources have also confirmed that another Maoist group managed to distribute leaflets at some villages in Thilanal gram panchayat of Deogarh districts on Saturday.

The 20-odd red rebels held a meeting and distributed leaflets in Derapathar village under Kisinda police station instigating people not to succumb to the “false” promises of the administration.

This was fourth such meeting in quick succession, the district police admitted.

Also, the rebels appealed to the residents not to work with officials of revenue department since they exploit tribals and poor people.

At Saturday’s meeting, out of the total 20 Maoist cadres eight were women. The ultras have reportedly also warned of violence unless Kendu-leaf pluckers were given their due wages.

However, DIG Sarangi said: “We have no such information.”

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