As many as 100 Naxals fired indiscriminately at C-60 commandos and jawans of the Special Action Team (SAT) from their sophisticated weapons in the Mardintola forest in Gadchiroli district of Maharashtra when the gun battle broke out on Saturday morning, a senior police officer said on Sunday. When the fierce encounter ended around 3:30 PM on Saturday after almost 10 hours, senior cadre Milind Teltumbade and 25 ultras had been killed.
Addressing a press conference, Gadchiroli SP Ankit Goyal said the police had received intelligence inputs about two days before the Saturday operation about the presence of a Naxal camp in the Mardintola forest in the Gyarapatti area of the Korchi tehsil. DIG (Gadchiroli range) Sandip Patil and other senior police officers were present at the press conference.
“A team of 300 police personnel, including C-60 commandos and SAT, along with additional SP Soumya Munde launched the anti-Naxal operation. They started conducting a search operation on Thursday night in the Mardintola forest. Around 6 AM on Saturday, over 100 ultras opened a heavy firing with their sophisticated weapons and ammunition on C-60 commandos and Special Action Team (SAT) personnel," he said.
The encounter left 26 ultras dead and four security personnel injured, he added. Goyal said 16 bodies have been identified so far with the help of the ultras who have surrendered.
He said many of the slain Naxals carried huge rewards on their heads, including top Maoist leader Milind Teltumbde who carried a bounty of Rs 50 lakh. “Killing of Milind Teltumbde will affect the Naxal movement very badly not only in Maharashtra but across India," Goyal added.
Teltumbde was a wanted accused in the Elgar Parishad-Maoist links case, a senior police official said earlier in the day.