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Seven Maoists killed

Nagpur, Feb. 18: Seven suspected Maoists were killed last night in an encounter in Maharashtra’s Gadchiroli following pointed tip-offs that police held up as evidence of waning public support for the rebels.

This is the highest number of casualties the rebels have suffered in a single operation in Gadchiroli, which borders the Maoist dens of Chhattisgarh, the police said.

The “quick” and “real time” intelligence on the movements of the rebels came a day after they allegedly torched a panchayat building, the police said, adding the growing pressure from troops was also a factor.

An AK47, two rifles, walkie-talkie sets and Maoist material were recovered from the encounter site in Betkathi village, inspector-general of police Ravindra Kadam said today.

Of the seven slain rebels, one, Lalsu alias Bidal, 42, was a member of the divisional committee of the CPI (Maoists) and an old-timer. He was said to have shifted from Bastar in Chhattisgarh. His wife, Shamko, 26, was also among those killed.

Before last night’s incident, the Maoists had suffered the biggest blow in the district when six cadres, five of them women, were killed last year in an encounter.

Twenty-eight Maoists were killed in Gadchiroli in 2012, the highest in a year in the area. Several had surrendered.