17 Maoists gunned down in Chhattisgarh forest

March 19th, 2008 - 12:53 am ICT by admin  

(Second Lead)

Raipur/Hyderabad, March 18 (IANS) At least 17 Maoist rebels were killed Tuesday in two gun battles with security forces in southern Chhattisgarh’s forested region near the border with Andhra Pradesh. The police forces of the two states killed the Maoists belonging to the outlawed Communist Party of India-Maoists (CPI-Maoist) during their joint combing operations.

The Chhattisgarh police and Andhra Pradesh’s elite Greyhounds forces surrounded a rebel hideout in Bijapur district’s Pamer police station area, close to the Andhra Pradesh border, and opened fire.

“Rebels, about 35 in number, found it tough to handle the flash attack and retaliated with firing to sneak into nearby forests, but we gunned down 17 of the banned Communist Party of India-Maoist (CPI-Maoist) senior cadres,” district superintendent of police Ankit Garg told IANS by phone.

He said 14 bodies lying in a pool of blood with 12 weapons, including AK-47s, were recovered from the site of the gun battle, some 520 km south of capital Raipur, while three bodies were recovered during searches later.

In Andhra Pradesh, Khammam District Superintendent of Police D.S. Chauhan said 14 Maoists were killed in the gun battle with police in the forest under Pamedu police station limits.

Andhra Pradesh Home Minister K. Jana Reddy told reporters that the gun battles occurred in Bijapur district of Chhattisgarh. He said 14 Maoists were killed in the first gun battle while three were killed in another gunfight in the same area.

“The encounters occurred when police forces of the two states were conducting joint combing operations in the forest area,” he said.

According to police officials, the dead include two top leaders and six ‘dalam’ or armed squads commanders and five women. The police also recovered large cache of arms and ammunition from the scenes of the two gunfights.

Majority of Maoists are believed to be from Andhra Pradesh. There were no reports of any loss of life among the policemen.

The Maoist sympathisers termed the gun battles as ’stage managed’ and accused police of deliberately killing the Maoists.

Revolutionary balladeer Gaddar alleged that the Congress government in Andhra Pradesh was brutally suppressing the Maoist movement and warned that people would teach it a lesson in the next elections.

Another Maoist sympathiser and writer Varvara Rao also termed the gunfights as fake. “Had they been real gun battles, police would also have suffered casualties,” he said.

He demanded that the policemen involved be booked on charges of murder.

The killings are yet another blow to the Maoist movement that has considerably weakened during last three years in this southern state, which was once their stronghold.

The Maoists claim to be fighting for rights of poor and landless farmers.

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