AT LEAST 24 Maoists, including 11 women, were killed in a 90-minute-long encounter with a joint team of the Odisha Police and Andhra Pradesh Police Greyhounds personnel early on Monday morning, in a forest in Malkangiri district near the Andhra-Odisha border.
While two Greyhounds personnel were injured, one later died in a hospital in Visakhapatnam. He has been identified as Muhammad Abu Bakr.
Malkangiri SP Mitrabhanu Mahapatra said following intelligence reports, a joint team of the Greyhounds, Odisha Police Special Operation Group and District Voluntary Force surrounded a Maoist camp in a forest area between Bejing and Muchiputam, under Panasput gram panchayat of the district, in the early hours of Monday.
The Maoists were reportedly holding a plenary session, which was to be attended by central committee member Akkiraju Haragopal alias Ramakrishna alias RK. While there were reports that Ramakrishna had escaped, police could not confirm if he was there. However, police sources said Ramakrishna’s son, Munna, was among those killed.
“We had definite information about the presence of 50-60 Maoists, mostly from Andhra Pradesh. Since the area is located in the cut-off area on the Andhra-Odisha border, the operation was launched from the other side, and Greyhounds took the lead,” said Mahapatra. “Our teams are still sanitising the area,” he added.
While there were reports that top Maoist leaders, including Gajarla Ravi alias Uday and Chalapathi alias Appa Rao, were among those killed, there was no confirmation from the police. Fourteen of the bodies are yet to be identified.
As military in-charge of the Andhra-Odisha Border Special Zonal Committee, Ravi took part in the peace talks with the Andhra Pradesh government in 2004 along with Ramakrishna. Chalapathi is secretary of the East division.
Some of the other Maoists who were killed have been identified as Daya, Venkat Ramana, Bengal Suresh, Ganesh, Latha, Mamata, Budri, Rajesh, Swarna, Madhu and Murali.
Four AK-47s and three SLRs were among the weapons recovered from the encounter site.
The place where the encounter took place is reportedly about two kilometres away from the spot where Ramakrishna addressed a meeting of villagers earlier this month, asking them to boycott the panchayat polls next year.
Gajarla Ravi hails from Velishala village near Warangal in Telangana. He, along with two of his brothers, joined the Maoist movements in the late ‘80s. One of them, Gajarla Ashok, surrendered last November. The other, Gajarla Saraiah alias Azad, was killed in an encounter in Warangal in April 2008.
Venkat Ramana was from Hakimpeta mandal of Visakhapatnam district in Andhra Pradesh.
Police officials said the encounter dealt a severe blow to Maoists, who were pushed to the Andhra-Odisha border after being driven out from Narayanpatna and Bandhugaon blocks of neighbouring Koraput district.