Search on for 35 missing cops on Andhra-Orissa border (Lead, changing dateline)

June 30th, 2008 - 12:16 pm ICT by IANS  

Visakhapatnam, June 30 (IANS) Search is on for 35 policemen of the elite anti-Maoist force ‘Greyhound’ of Andhra Pradesh, reported missing after Maoist guerrillas ambushed their motorboat in a reservoir in Orissa close to the Andhra border. Six helicopters, dozens of rescue teams of police and expert divers continued search operations in and around the Ballimella reservoir in Orissa’s Malkangiri district, close to Visakhapatnam district in north coastal Andhra.

Ten policemen were injured in this biggest-ever ambush by the guerrillas of Andhra Pradesh police.

Senior police officials said they have not yet recovered any dead body from the reservoir, which is located about 220 km from here.

The police teams resumed search operations Monday morning as confusion prevails over the number of casualties. Unofficial reports put the death toll at five but Director General of Police of Andhra Pradesh S.S.P. Yadav told newsmen that the deaths were not confirmed.

Three critically injured cops were taken to a hospital here while the remaining were undergoing treatment at a local hospital in Orissa.

The motorboat was carrying 64 policemen who were returning to Sileru in Andhra Pradesh after taking part in a joint anti-Maoist operation with Orissa police. About 100 rebels belonging to the Communist Party of India-Maoist attacked the boat from surrounding hillocks.

“As the forces were taking positions to retaliate, the boat tilted to one side and capsized. At least 25 personnel swam out safely… search is on for the remaining 30 to 35 personnel,” said the Andhra police chief after calling on three injured cops at the Seven Hills Hospital here Sunday night.

The guerrillas attacked the boat with rockets, mortars and light machine guns. As the boat driver was killed in the gunfire, the boat became a sitting duck. The boat capsized during the heavy firing and many policemen jumped into the water.

Senior police officials rushed to the scene to supervise rescue operations, which were hampered by overnight rains. Large number of paramilitary Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) and state police personnel has been rushed to the area for search and combing operations.

Home Minister K. Jana Reddy also rushed to Visakhapatnam. Chief Minister Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy, who held a meeting in Hyderabad and reviewed the situation, would be visiting the coastal city later in the day.

The surprise attack on police was carried out by State Military Committee, which was constituted by Andhra-Orissa Border Special Zonal Committee of CPI-Maoist 10 days ago to intensify attacks on Andhra-Orissa border, it was learnt.

The police forces of the two states had launched combing operations following information that the guerrillas were holding training sessions in the region.

The Maoists were observing a protest week from June 26 against the “central government-led oppression and elimination methods” and the steep hike in prices of essential commodities.

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