Hunt for Maoists intensifies in Orissa, weapons recovered

February 19th, 2008 - 12:05 am ICT by admin  

(Night Lead)

Bhubaneswar, Feb 18 (IANS) Hundreds of security personnel continued their hunt Monday for Maoists in forests of Orissa two days after the rebels killed 14 policemen and escaped with a huge haul of weapons. The security forces recovered several rifles and half a truckload of ammunition in the forests.

Hundreds of security personnel intensified combing operations in the forests near Gasma hill in Ganjam district and the neighbouring districts where the rebels are suspected to have fled.

“No gun battle was reported from the region Monday nor is there any information on casualties so far,” Additional Director General of Police Manmohan Praharaj, who is heading the anti-Maoist operation, told IANS Monday evening.

Earlier in the day, Director General of Police Gopal Chandra Nanda told reporters that security forces had recovered 115 rifles and a huge cache of ammunition left behind in the forests by the fleeing guerrillas.

The rebels had looted around 1,000 rifles and over 100,000 bullets during a raid on an armoury and several police posts in Nayagarh district Friday night and early Saturday.

“We have recovered as many as 115 rifles and about half-a-truckload of ammunition from forest areas during combing operations,” Nanda told reporters here.

There was heavy fighting Sunday between the security forces and the Maoists in the forest areas. Praharaj said the fleeing Maoists had split into groups. “So we are chasing them from all sides.”

According to a home department official, at least 1,000 security forces personnel, including about 200 men from Greyhound - the elite anti-Maoist special force of Andhra Pradesh - were searching the area.

Officials said the attack was suspected to be the handiwork of Maoist leader Sabysachi Panda, who hails from Nayagarh district.

Home Secretary Tushar Kanti Mishra Sunday told reporters that at least 20 rebels and three security personnel had been killed in the battles late Saturday and Sunday.

However, Nanda said the number of Maoists killed could be higher.

“The people living in the forests said that they had seen about 20 bodies of the Maoists in their localities, but we believe it could be much more,” he said.

The state government Monday handed over the bodies of the policemen killed by Maoists to their families after offering floral tribute and gun salutes, he said.

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