Bhubaneswar, April 28: Maoists struck in Malkangiri district, a known rebel stronghold, gunning down three persons at villages within the Mathili police station limits, nearly 600km from here.
Police today said a group of 30 armed rebels had barged into Kopara, Udaygiri and Mahupadar villages last night and executed their targets, all suspected police informers. The bullet-riddled bodies of Talashankar Bhuyan (Udaygiri), Dhobunu Nayak (Kopara) and Mamgalu Kolar (Mahupadar) were later retrieved from the outskirts of their respective villages.
The rebels, including some women cadres, left behind hand-written letters claming that apart from being police informers the “punished” trio were trying to organise local resistance against the Maoist movement. However, inspector general of police (south-western range) Yashwant Jethwa described the deceased as innocent villagers.
Sources said the Maoists belonging to Darbha committee of the banned outfit, which operated both in Odisha and Chhattisgarh, had carried out killings. Combing by district police and BSF jawans has been intensified in the area following the incident.
In another development, the police arrested a woman Maoist carrying a cash reward on her head on Sunday night during a combing operation by BSF jawans in Narayanpatna area of Koraput district. The rebel, Tulasi Mandangi of Dekapatu village in Koraput, was a close aide of senior rebel leaders, Daya, Aruna and Nirmala.
The latest killings have broken the brief lull in Maoist violence in Malkangiri and Koraput districts where the rebels had carried out a series of executions in January this year and December last. While the rebels had shot dead four persons, including two panchayats ward members, and blown up part of a river bridge in Malkangiri on December, a month later, they hacked to death two businessmen at Narayanpatna of Koraput.
The businessmen, who owned shops in their villages, were killed by cadres belonging to Srikakulam-Koraput division of the CPI (Maoist) that was banned by the state government in 2006 but continues to be active in 17 of its 30 districts. The killers had left behind posters, which dubbed the shopkeepers as police informers and enemies of tribal people.
However, security forces also have had some major successes in their war against Left wing extremism in the Malkangiri-Koraput belt in the past one year. The most important of these was the killing of 13 Maoists by Malkangiri police in an encounter that took place in September last year close to Chhattisgarh border.
The operation was led by the young district superintendent of police, Akhileshwar Singh, who has since kept the heat on the Maoists.
In January, paramilitary forces gunned down a Maoist in the district’s “cut-off” area, so called because of its difficult terrain. This encounter took place under Ralegada panchayat located across the Balimela reservoir bordering Andhra Pradesh.
Sources in Bhubaneswar said the state government was gearing up to intensify the anti-Maoist operation in large parts of south and west Odisha where rebels enjoy strong bases. Apart from Malkangiri and Koraput, the operation would be stepped up in districts such as Rayagada, Gajpati, Sambalpur and Sundargarh.