Orissa: 20 Naxalites killed in encounter

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Bhubaneswar, Feb 17: As many as 20 Naxalites and three police personnel including one Assistant Commandant of Special Operation Group (SOG) were killed during a fierce encounter and intensive combing operation in the Gasama forest bordering Kandhmal district today.

Orissa Home Secretary T K Mishra said the casualty from the Naxalites side would likely to rise as sources said several naxalites were injured in the encounter which continued for the second day today. The Orissa government had launched an intensive combing operation by encircling the fleeing ultras at various places bordering Kandhmal, Ganjam, Gajapati and Nayagarh districts. A strong contingent of security personnel comprising Greyhound, Special Operation Group, CRPF and OSAP jawans under the direct supervision of Additional Director General of Police (Operation) Manmohan Praharaj had almost zeroed in on the four to five hide-outs of the fleeing ultras.

The intensive combing operation, the Home Secretary said, will continue till ''we come out victorious''. He was, however, very much optimistic that the operation would be completed very soon.

The police today recovered the bodies of Assistant Commandant Pramod Satpathy, Personal Security to Berhampur Superintendent of Police Sushant Gauda and OSAP 7th Battalion jawan Sanjaya Kumar Panda from the Gasama forest where a fierce encounter was still continuing.

Police sources said in the wake of stiff resistance,the Naxalites have started dispersing from Gasama forest and moving to other areas in the dense forest. The villagers have sighted them near the Ranikiari forest and Pokasinga village, located almost 20 kms away from the Gasama forest.

The Home Secretary said the naxalites were virtually trapped inside the forest with all the escape routes being sealed by the police.The ultras had now left with two options either to be killed or captured.

National Anti-Naxal Operation Head Kumawat, who was camping in the state capital for the last two days and personally monitoring the combing operation, today visited Nayagarh town to assess the situation there following the Friday's attack. The Home Secretary said he had a talk with the Union Home Secretary yesterday who had assured of all help to deal with the situation. The Centre had dispatched two helicopters and para military forces including the Greyhound jawans which were being pressed in the combing operation.

A Congress delegation led by Leader of Opposition and former Chief Minister J B Pattnaik today visited Nayagarh and blamed the state government for the mayhem.

About 500 heavily armed Naxalites laid a seize to Nayagarh town on Friday night, about 90 kms from the state capital, and carried out simultaneous attacks on the town police station, district armoury and Police Training School and looted huge caches of arms and ammunition.

In a heart rendering incidents the 14 police personnel killed by the Naxalite in Nayagarh were cremated in their native villages with full state honour in presence of senior district officials and local representatives.

The Orissa Police Officers Association(OPOA) and the Orissa State Armed Police, Havildar Constable and Sepoys Confederation (OSAPHCS) today, demanded that all the districts in Orissa be declared as naxalite prone and held the state government responsible for the naxalite attack in Nayagarh.

The Associations demanded implementation of three tier fortification system for the armoury and staff quarters and urged the state government to press helicopter for the quick deployment of reinforcements in case of any urgency.

They have threatened to go for an agitational path if their demands were not considered by the government within six months.''Had the government implemented our demands the incident at Nayagarh would not have happened and so many police personnel would not have been killed'', the Association President Sabarmal Sharma said.

The State stepped up its one of the biggest combing operations in the history of encounter against hundreds of armed naxalites following the Nayagarh mayhem in which 17 police personnel and a civilian was decimated.

UNI

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