Police have gunned down 13 Naxals, including seven women, at Kotmi forest in Etapalli tehsil of Gadchiroli district, during a major anti-Naxal operation.
“The encounter ensued when the elite C60 commando parties were combing and searching the forest, 15 km north of Kotmi. It started around 6.30 am when the Naxals, who were probably on the move in a group of about 60 to 70, started firing from the hilltop. Four C60 commando parties, comprising over 100 men, retaliated, killing 13 Naxals,” said Gadchiroli additional superintendent of police Manish Kalwania.
Kalwania said the encounter, which lasted for about 90 minutes, was the “second biggest success” for Gadchiroli police to date after the Boria-Kasnasur encounter in 2018 in which 41 Naxals were killed.
In at least three encounters in the past, maximum Naxal casualties were seven each in Kurkheda, Dechhhlipetha and Govindpur.
Kalwania also said among those who died on Friday was a cadre called Satish, a member of North Gadchiroli divisional committee of CPI (Maoist). “Some weapons, including AK-47 and SLR and an IED were among material seized from the spot,” he said.
Asked if this was an intelligence-based operation, Kalwania said, “No, it was a regular search operation. This is the season for collecting tendu leaves, and Naxals are on the move during this period for extortion from tendu contractors.”
All deceased Naxals were identified and mostly belonged to the Kasansur dalam, he added.
With Friday’s operation, police have killed 22 Naxals this year. The previous encounter took place on May 16 in Sawargaon area of North Gadchiroli, in which two Naxals were killed.
State home minister Dilip Walse-Patil rushed to Gadchiroli after hearing about the encounter and congratulated police. He also addressed a press conference and said Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray was planning to undertake more intensive anti-Naxal operations in areas bordering Chhattisgarh by holding discussions with Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel.
Additional director general of police Sanjay Saxena, deputy inspector general of police (Gadchiroli range) Sandip Patil and Gadchiroli superintendent of police Ankit Goyal were also present at the press conference.