Naxalites flee Gasama forest, Operation shifted to other areas

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Bhubaneswar, Feb 19 (UNI) In the face of mounting pressure by a strong force of Orissa police and Paramilitary forces supported by IAF helicopters, a large number of naxalites, holed up atop the Gasama hill have slipped into the other nearby hills.

The naxalites also dumped a large cache of weapons they had looted from the Nayagarh Armoury on February 15.

A senior police official, supervising the combing operations along the borders of Ganjam and Phulbani since the past four days, said the Greyhound, Special Operation Group (SOG) and CRPF jawans scanned the entire Gasama hill and to their dismay found the naxalites already sneaking into the nearby jungles.

The encounter and combing operation, which was more or less confined to the Gasama hill with the hope that large number of armed naxalites were hiding, has now been shifted to the nearby jungles and hillocks in Kandhmal district after the local villagers reported the naxalites moving in small groups in their areas.

Meanwhile, another five companies of the CRPF are likely to join the operation, the biggest ever launched in the history of Orissa against the naxalites following a request from Orissa Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik, who spoke to Union Home Minister Shivraj Patil and the latter agreed to the reuest.

Already 33 platoons of Orissa State Armed Police (OSAP), six companies of CRPF, three units of the Greyhound forces and four units of the SOG are engaged in the operation to track down the fleeing naxalites since February 16.

Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik had told the Assembly yesterday that the naxals would be apprehended shortly as the police, along with the Greyhound, SOG and CRPF, had rummaged through the jungles of Bhanjanagar, Tarasingh, Sorada and Gallery areas.

The Nayagarh operation by the left wing ultras had killed 17 police personnel, including Assistant Commandant of the SOG Pramod Satpathy while the police claimed to have gunned down more than 20 naxalites during the encounter even though not a single body of the naxalites has so far been retrieved from the jungles.

The borders of Chhatisgarh and Andhra Pradesh with Orissa had already been sealed and closely guarded to prevent the naxalites sneaking into the neighbouring states, a senior police official said.

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