In an important achievement, at least five Maoists, including two women, were gunned down after two encounters with the security forces in the deep forests of Khobramendha in Maharashtra’s Gadchiroli, officials said here on Monday.
Among the fatalities notched this morning were a North Gadchiroli Commander, Pawan Hichami alias Bhaskar, and Deputy Commander Naitam Sukhdeo, besides 3 Dalam members, said DIG, Naxal Operations, Sandip Patil.
The extremists jointly carried a reward of Rs 4.30 million (Rs 43 lakh) on their heads and were wanted in scores of other serious crimes in the region, he added.
Detailing the first encounter, Patil said it took place when the Gadchiroli police’s C-60 Commandos team was engaged in a search and combing operation on Saturday morning, culminating in a fierce exchange of fire with around 40-50 extremists hiding in the jungles at various locations.
Exchange of fire continued for nearly two hours after which the Maoists retreated and escaped into the forest that morning.
Later, the police scanned the vicinity and recovered three pressure cooker bombs, four different types of rifles including an AK-47, 303 rifle magazines, live cartridges, detonators, electric wires bundles, firecracker bombs, solar plates, pen drives, memory cards and other electronic devices, medicines and other material, Patil told media persons.
After 48 hours, a new team of commandos resumed the jungle search operations, based on intelligence information, at around 7.30 a.m. on Monday and encountered a group of around 25 Maoists who opened indiscriminate firing on them.
In the retaliatory firing during this second encounter, the C-60 commandos managed to gun down five Maoists, including two women, and a search is on to trace out if there were more victims and terror material stashed in the vicinity, Patil said.
Efforts are underway to identify the other slain victims, which groups/dalams they belonged to, their ranks, and other details even as the forces remain on high alert as the Holi festival was being celebrated.
Patil said that the government consistently appeals to the Maoists to surrender and all efforts would be made to rehabilitate them in the social mainstream, otherwise they would have to face “grim consequences”.