Bhubaneswar, Sept. 14: A joint team of the Special Operations Group (SOG) and the District Voluntary Force (DVF) today gunned down 13 Maoists, including a woman cadre, in the Silakota forests of Malkangiri district, around 600km from here.
Malkangiri superintendent of police Akhileshwar Singh led the operation at Podia block of the district near the Chhattisgarh border. The place is close to Kota Materu village, where the rebels shot dead a village guard on September 9. Forty SOG and DVF jawans were involved in the hour-long shootout that began around 5.30am.
The rebels, killed in the gun battle that followed specific intelligence inputs about their movement in the area, belonged to the Kalimela Dalam (group) of the CPI(Maoist). Some of them hailed from Chhattisgarh and are believed to have been involved in the attack on a Congress convoy in the neighbouring state’s Darbha valley on May 26. The police have seized some weapons and other materials from the encounter spot.
Singh said the team had reached the spot following a tip-off about the movement of the rebels in the area last night. The Maoists, who were around 30 in number, were the first to open fire when the police team came face to face with them. The jawans retaliated immediately. Singh said today’s success would boost the morale of the forces engaged in anti-Maoist operations.
Director-general of police Prakash Mishra, who rushed to the district along with other senior officers, said the operation had followed specific intelligence inputs about the presence of Maoists in the area. The rebels, he said, either belonged to the local operation group at Podia or the Dandakaranya committee of the Maoists. “This will send a message to the Maoists from other states not to enter our area,” said Mishra even as he renewed his call to the rebels to return to the mainstream.
The incident comes close on the heels of the killing of four BSF jawans in a landmine explosion in Koraput’s Sunki valley on August 27. The jawans, who belonged to 161 BSF battalion stationed at Balimela in Malkangiri, were on their way to Vishakhapatnam when the rebels ambushed them. The attack was seen as an act of revenge by the Maoists, whose leader Madahav alias Golla Ramulu was gunned down by the security forces on August 23 in Koraput district. He carried a reward of Rs 4 lakh on his head.
Security forces stepped up operations against the rebels in Malkangiri and Koraput districts following the August 27 incident. It received a boost in the wake of Union home ministry security adviser K. Vijay Kumar’s recent visit to Malkangiri. He had held detailed discussions with the police and the BSF officers posted in the region and helped them chalk out a comprehensive strategy to combat the Red menace. Earlier this month, home secretary Vipin Saxena and the director-general of police also visited Koraput to review the security situation in the area.
Malkangiri and Koraput have been the focus of the state’s anti-Maoist operation because of their geographical proximity to Chhattisgarh and Andhra Pradesh, the two states where rebels enjoy strong bases.
The rebels had killed 38 Greyhound jawans of Andhra Pradesh police in the Balimela reservoir in 2008.
The “cut-off” area of Malkangiri, so called because its only link with the mainland is a ferry service on the Balimela reservoir, is the worst affected by the Maoist problem in the state. Around 20,000 people from seven panchayats of the area had recently been marooned for 10 days when a rebel decree paralysed the boat service.