NAGPUR/CHANDRAPUR: Naxalites received another jolt in Gadchiroli when police’s C-60 commandos, along with a section of Cobras commandos, gunned down six of their woman cadres and recovered arms and ammunitions after an encounter near Mandri village in Etapalli division. It is perhaps for the first time woman cadres have been killed in such large number. With this encounter, Naxalites have lost 23 cadres so far this year while more than 31 have surrendered.
Police feel Naxalites may have have faced a bigger loss but managed to drag bodies of some comrades into jungles. Police claimed two bodies were fished out from a lake adjoining Mandri village on the bank of which the gunbattle took place while another was found on a hillock a little further away. Three were recovered from encounter scene. A boat from Pranhita policeheadquarters was pressed into service for fishing out the body.
One 303 rifle, a carbine, five 12-bore rifles, 13 hand grenades and 20 ‘pittus’ (rucksacks) were recovered. Sources said Naxalites were preparing for a meeting at Sawari village in the vicinity when their plans were leaked to the police force. Though the cops are yet to establish identity of slain rebels, presence of senior cadres among them is not being ruled out.
A section of the cops feel Chhattisgarh-based cadres may also be among the ones killed as the place of encounter, around 200 km away from Gadchiroli, is within a couple of kilometres from Chhattisgarh border. The six killed are likely to be part of Platoon no 3 of Kasansoor Dalam along with some local groups. They had apparently been camping in the jungle for the last couple of days but police have not confirmed anything.
Superintendent of police, Gadchiroli district, Mohd Suwez Haque said an intelligence-based operation was launched after knowing about the presence of rebels in the locality. “The commandos conducted the operations despite odds being against them with a full flowing river to cross and thick vegetation to negotiate,” he said. SP Haque also underlined the fact that the identification of the exact outfit of the Naxalites and cadres are yet to take place. “The operation started with specific inputs despite communication hurdles as there is no mobile phone connectivity in the area,” said SP.
Sources from Gadchiroli police said teams were dispatched from both Pranhita camp of Aheri police headquarters and Gadchiroli. According to reliable source, commandos had to almost crawl for a few kilometres on the slushy forest floor to avoid being spotted from distance.
Sources said the Naxalites were likely taken by surprise with security forces zeroing in from different directions. A senior cop said timing of the attack also played a part. Usually afternoon is when senior Naxalite cadres spend time planning future moves. It is learnt the security forces air-lifted the bodies of the slain to Gadchiroli police headquarters where the surrendered rebels have been asked to remain ready to aid in identification. Photos of the slain bodies were also sent to theChhattisgarh police for identification.