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Gadchiroli: Maoists gun down 18 policemen

Posted by Admin on October 9, 2009

GADCHIROLI (Maharashtra): Naxals on Thursday struck with killing 18 policemen when they ambushed a police patrol in dense forests in this district ignoring stern warnings by Union Home Minister P Chidambaram asking them to give up violence or face action.

In a rerun of the beheading of a Jharkhand police intelligence officer by the Maoists near Ranchi in a Taliban-type action early this week, a police informer identified as Suresh Alami met a similar fate in Gadchiroli just before the third major naxal strike in this district.

The daring attack occured when a police party of nearly 40 personnel came under heavy fire from 150 to 200 naxals at about 1 PM near Laheri police station of the district when it was returning after undertaking search operations following an intelligence input that Maoists had assembled in the area.

The policemen, who were outnumbered by the heavily armed naxals, retaliated and their encounter lasted for nearly three to four hours in an area adjoining the Maoist infested Bijapur district of Chattisgarh.

At least 18 policemen including sub-inspector C S Deshmukh were gunned down and several injured after they were attacked indiscriminately, police said. About 15 naxals were also killed, they said. The attack took place five days before the Maharashtra Assembly elections.

The encounter came barely hours after the Maoists set on fire a gram panchayat office in Gadchiroli district.

The attack coincided the Cabinet Committee of Security (CCS) meeting presided by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in New Delhi to discuss the rise in Naxal violence.

District Collector Atul Patne told PTI that Alami’s severed head was found near his body as naxals had suspected him to be a police informer.

Patne said the Left-wing extremists used sophisticated weapons on the police party which was completely outnumbered.

"As many as two platoons of BSF (50 personnel) and additional police force was rushed to the spot and they could manage to save the rest of the policemen caught in the heavy fire," he said. The killing took place two km from Lahiri police post in Bhamragad tehsil of the district.

In February, 15 policemen were killed in Naxal attacks and in May, 16 police personnel, including five women, lost their lives in another Naxal strike in the district.

Taking stock of the situation, the Centre rushed additional paramilitary forces to the area, Home Secretary G K Pillai said in New Delhi.

Inspector General of Police, Nagpur Surendra Kumar said combing operation were underway but said the terrain was very difficult.

"We could send some relief parties there and they have secured the area," District Superintendent of Police S Jaya Kumar said adding efforts were being made to airlift the injured.

Chief Minister Ashok Chavan said, the state government will not be cowed down by the naxal strikes. "We will repel any attack. We will return the fire."

IG (Nagpur) Surendra Kumar said two policemen received bullet injuries in hand and leg and were out of danger but the bodies of those slain were yet to be recovered.

"The retreating naxalites have felled trees to block the advance of reinforcements. A combing operation is underway to track down the fleeing naxalites and retrieve the bodies, but the task is difficult given the difficult terrain and the night," he said. TOI

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