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Satellite tracks foe

Goaltore, June 26: The country’s spy in the sky today helped forces kick off their first full-blooded assault on the Maoists holed up in Lalgarh.

Using images captured by Risat-2, which the Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro) had launched in April, the forces recaptured that slice of the liberated zone where the Maoist concentration was believed to be highest.

“From the images, we could figure out that the villages along the stretch from Goaltore to Ramgarh were empty. But the forests had a huge concentration of people, suspected Maoist guerrillas,” said a senior state police officer.

Central and state officers met in Midnapore town last night and drew up their plan on the basis of inputs from Risat-2, the country’s first satellite that can send images of the ground even after nightfall.

Since Tuesday, a senior military intelligence officer had been scanning the images — beamed by Risat-2 from an altitude of 550km — analysing them at Fort William and sending the inputs to the state home department. The intelligence was forwarded to Midnapore IG Kuldeip Singh.

Although the satellite — developed with help from Israel — provided black-and-white still images with a lag of six hours, they threw up many clues about Maoist movements.

“The images revealed that the Maoists had mobilised a huge force and so we decided to get more personnel at Goaltore,” said a senior state police officer, explaining the delay in launching the final assault.

The officers first felt the need for credible intelligence of the areas deep inside Lalgarh when the Maoists beat back a state paramilitary team at Pingboni on June 19.

“As we didn’t have any intelligence from the ground, satellite images of the area were the only option. The state government got in touch with the Union home ministry earlier this week to activate Isro,” explained a senior state official.

According to him, this was the first time images captured by Risat-2 were used in an operation against the Maoists.

“When we started the operation this morning, we had a fair idea about the Maoist hideouts and so our men could start shelling specific areas,” said a central force officer.

Although the security forces could not give any information on enemy casualties, a senior officer told The Telegraph the heavy mortar shelling forced them to retreat.

“We could not have launched the operation without the satellite images,” said the officer, adding that today’s takeover of Kadashole was also a tech triumph.

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