Politics

Death Toll Rises to 27 in Encounter Against Maoists at Andhra-Odisha Border

The bodies of Maoists killed in the encounter on Monday. Credit: PTI

The bodies of Maoists killed in the encounter on Monday. Credit: PTI

At least 27 people were killed in the encounter between the banned Communist Party of India (Marxist) and the combined forces of Andhra Pradesh and Odisha’s police which took place in Malkangiri, Odisha on Monday morning, according to ANI. This makes it the highest number of casualties suffered by the Maoist party in the area.

Earlier today, the Hindu and the Indian Express reported 24 casualties, but the toll has since risen after policemen discovered three more bodies in the area where the encounter took place.

Malkangiri superintendent of police (SP) Mitrabhanu Mohapatra had told the Hindu, “As the place where the encounter took place is too remote and is reachable by road from through Andhra Pradesh, the bodies are to be airlifted by helicopter to Malkangiri,” he pointed out. The report added that the number of dead was likely to increase since the police were conducting a search operation to find injured Maoists who escaped into the dense jungle.

According to the AP police, two constables, belonging to the state’s Greyhound commandos and an elite anti-Maoist force respectively, were also injured in the encounter .

PTI first reported the operation yesterday, adding that police suspected that a top Maoist leader, Akkiraju Haragopal, known as Ramakrishna or RK and his son were among those killed. Indian Express could not confirm RK’s death but there are reports that he escaped. However, police sources did report that his son, Munna, was among the dead.

Reports of other Maoist leaders being killed in the encounter also remain unconfirmed. Indian Express reported, “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.” The Hindu reported that Uday had a price of Rs 2 lakh on his head but also could not confirm his death in the encounter.

Andhra Pradesh and Odisha’s police forces planned the operation together on receiving intelligence reports that a group of 100 Maoists had gathered in Malkangiri district. A team made up of Greyhounds, Odisha Police Special Operation Group and District Voluntary Force surrounded a Maoist camp situated in a forested area between Bejing and Muchiputam, in Malkangiri district early on Monday morning.

“We suspect that Maoists of Odisha and AP assembled in forests for a plenary, as many weapons were seized from the spot. Some top Maoist leaders were killed and a few most wanted extremists escaped from the scene. Police can give exact number of deaths later,” Director General of Police N. Sambasiva Rao told the Hindu.

The report added that police recovered four AK-47 rifles, three self-loading rifles (SLR) and other guns from the scene.

According to police officials, this operation – the biggest in Malkangiri and the second major encounter in the region – is a major success for them since the district serves as a “major transit zone of Maoists and it borders Naxalite-infested areas of Andhra and Chattisgarh”, the Hindu reported.