Bhubaneswar: At least four Maoists, including two women cadres, were gunned down during an exchange of fire with security forces in a dense forest in Odisha's Kandhamal district on Sunday, police said.
Some police personnel have also sustained injuries during the firing, Kandhamal Superintendent of Police Prateek Singh said.
Acting on a tip-off, a team of Special Operations Group (SOG) personnel and District Voluntary Force (DVF) officers launched a raid in the forest in Tumudibandha area of Kandhamal district early in the day, Director General of Police (DGP) Abhay said.
As the security personnel approached their hideout, the Maoists opened fire and a gun battle ensued, leading to the death of the four rebels. A huge cache of arms and ammunition, including improvised explosive devices (IEDs), were seized from the area, the DGP said.
All four of them are suspected to be members of the Bansadhara-Nagavali-Ghumusar division of the banned CPI (Maoist), he said, adding that a massive combing operation is underway in the area. The DGP said some Maoists have also been injured in the operation.
Singh, who went to the site along with other senior officers, said, "The security forces had asked the Maoists to surrender but they responded by opening fire from automatic rifles and lobbing grenades. Some police personnel were injured in the firing."
When the police team retaliated in self-defence, the Maoists continued firing for some time before escaping into the thick forest. After the firing stopped, the security forces found the bodies of the four armed Maoists, including two women cadres. Their identity is being ascertained, Singh said.
Six firearms, including three self-loading rifles (SLRs), one INSAS rifle and two country-made guns along with a huge quantity of ammunition, solar plates, radio and walkie talkie sets and other electronic gadgets were seized, he said.
An estimated 35-40 armed Maoists are hiding in the forest and combing operation has been intensified to nab them, the SP said.
DGP Abhay, who visited Kandhamal district during the day, appealed to the Maoists to lay down their arms and return to the mainstream. "We appeal to all Maoists operating in Odisha to surrender and join the national mainstream. Odisha Govt has a very generous surrender and rehabilitation policy for them," he tweeted.
Congratulating the security forces, Chief Secretary A K Tripathy said the operation has strengthened Odisha's resolve to fight extremism. "Congrats to Officers & Jawans of Odisha Police on successful ops in Kandhamal. Their brave action is much appreciated. Death of 4 Maoist confirmed. This strengthens our resolve to free our state from extremism and spur all round development in the state," he tweeted.
Earlier this week, a Maoist camp was busted and explosives seized by security forces in Phiringia area of Kandhamal.