Minutes after finishing their early morning chores, the Maoists came under heavy firing from the Andhra Pradesh greyhound commandos and Odisha’s Special Operation Group (SOG) personnel in the core of the forest in Malkangiri’s Panashput gram panchayat on Monday.
The forces surrounded them from all sides leaving little room for escape or retaliation, when they were having a meeting after the routine roll call. While the greyhound positioned themselves at the entry into the forest from AP side, the SOGs stood guard at the exits.
On Monday, while 23 Maoists were killed, a greyhound commando also succumbed to injuries during the gunbattle. Three more bodies of the Maoists were found in the forest during the sanitizing exercise by the joint forces taking the Maoists casualty to 26.
Superintendent of police (Malkangiri) Mitrabhanu Mohapatra said it was a training camp of the Maoists located at strategic place. “Being a cut-off area, they thought it to be safe. But we were successsful because of joint strategy, concrete intelligence gathering and timing of operation,” Mohapatra said.
Sources said in this core forest area, the Maoists killed 38 greyhound commandos in 2008. This emboldened their spirit and kept the forces on the back foot. In 2011, the Maoists abducted then Malkangiri collector R Vineel Krishna in the cut-off area. The Maoists then began to strengthen their base in Odisha and revived lost ground in Andhra Pradesh.
“This operation is significant because, the Andhra Odisha Border (AOB) committee cadres were planning to re-establish their base in Andhra Pradesh again. In Kalimela and Mathili, the presence of Left-wing extremists has come down. This operation in a way takes away a bastion from the extremists,” Mohapatra said.
Although the Maoists managed to pick their guns and respond to the firing of security forces, it had little impact with bullets being rained on them from all sides. The forces recovered three AK-47 rifles, four SLRs, four Insas guns, two pistols, seven 303 rifles and one telescope that is meant to mount on sniper, wires and food items. “The telescope is an indication of presence of sniper among the cadres,” sources said. Monday’s surprise raid resulted in top cadres being killed, including six of them who carried Rs 20 lakh cash reward each.