Orissa steps up combing operation to nab naxalites

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Bhubaneswar, Feb 18 (UNI) Orissa today 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.

The operation was triggered after information that the naxalites had moved to the borders of Ganjam and Kandhmal district and were hiding in the hill top in their bid to escape to the neighbouring state.

State Home Secretary T K Mishra claimed that so far 20 Naxalites had been eliminated during a joint operation by the Greyhound, Special Operation Group, CRPF and Orissa State Armed Police(OSAP) jawans.

Senior Police officials supervising the combing operation, however, maintained that the casualty from the Naxalite side would rise as a number of them were seriously injured during the encounter at the Gasma hill bordering Ganjam and Phulbani district during the last three days.

State Director General of Police Gopal Nanda said a fierce encounter was going on in at least four places as the heavily armed naxalites divided into various small groups and were moving into the interior villages inside the dense forest in a bid to flee from the state.

He said all the exit points bordering Andhra Pradesh and Chhatisgarh had been sealed and confirmed that the naxalites involved in the Nayagarh massacre were still inside the state.

As many as two companies of Greyhound police from Andhra Pradesh, four companies of CRPF, three companies of the Special Operation Group and over 30 battalions of the OSAP, besides police force drawn from four Southern Orissa districts were engaged in the combing operation. Two IAF Chetak helicopters were also assisting the force in the combing operation.

Report reaching here today said the naxalites in the face of a heavy encounter had dispersed from the Gasama forest where there were hiding and moved to nearby forest and interior villages on foot.

A war-like situation prevailed in the borders of Ganjam and Phulbani following fierce encounter with the Naxalites and the villagers in the nearby areas had deserted their villages fearing threat to their lives.

The intensive combing operation, the Home Secretary said, will continue till ''we come out victorious'' The police yesterday recovered the bodies of SOG 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.

The villagers have reported the sighting of the naxalites 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 be killed or captured.

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