Boat pulled out, bodies of eight more cops found (Lead)

July 8th, 2008 - 11:28 pm ICT by IANS  

Visakhapatnam/Bhubaneswar, July 8 (IANS) A boat carrying personnel of anti-Maoist force Greyhounds that sank during Maoists’ attack in a reservoir in Orissa near Andhra Pradesh border June 29 was Tuesday hauled out of water. The rescue teams found bodies of five personnel in the boat while three more bodies were recovered from the spot where the boat sank. With this, bodies of 33 policemen have been recovered while efforts were on to trace the bodies of remaining five missing personnel.

The boat was carrying 66 Greyhound personnel, who were returning to Andhra after taking part in a joint anti-Maoist operation with Orissa police. The police said 28 people swam ashore.

The Maoists ambushed the boat from surrounding hillocks as it was crossing Balimela reservoir in Malkangiri district of Orissa near Andhra border, about 220 km from Visakhapatnam.

It was the worst-ever Maoist attack on the Greyhounds force, which was raised by Andhra Pradesh police in 1989 to tackle the extremist problem.

Navy divers and search teams Tuesday hauled the boat out, two days after it was lifted off the reservoir bed with the help of three imported balloons. The boat, which was brought near the shore on Monday, was pulled out using heavy iron ropes and machines of some private companies.

The rescue teams found five bodies and 20 rifles in the boat. Police officials said the bodies bore no bullet wounds, proving their theory that the boat tilted and sank when personnel came to one side to retaliate. Maoists had launched the attack with rockets and heavy firing from AK 47 rifles and light machine guns.

“Some bodies and guns were recovered from the boat Tuesday,” Deputy Inspector General of Orissa Police Sanjib Panda told IANS. “Now only five people are missing.”

With this, the 10-day long operations involving naval divers and expert swimmers came to an end.

Malkangiri district police chief Satish Gajbhiye said: “Although operation by the army and the navy has come to an end, the police will continue its search in the reservoir for the five men and the missing arms.”

Visakhapatnam district superintendent of police A. Sabharwal told newsmen that efforts were on to trace the remaining policemen. “We will camp here till we trace the remaining five personnel,” he said.

The rescue teams had a tough time in retrieving the boat, which was traced three days after the attack. Their efforts to salvage the boat by various methods, including a jumbo helicopter, failed.

They finally used three balloons, each with a capacity to lift 10 tonnes of weight. After hooking the balloons to the boat from different sides, they were filled with hot air to lift the launch from more than 50 metres depth.

Intermittent rains and the presence of crocodiles in the reservoir also hampered the rescue operations.

Meanwhile, bodies of Greyhounds personnel continue to be brought to Visakhapatnam for autopsy. The bodies are then being sent to their native places for funerals.

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