Naxals 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 ultras 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 Naxals 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 ultras were hiding, has now been shifted to the nearby jungles and hillocks in Kandhmal district after the local villagers reported the Naxals moving in small groups in their areas.

Meanwhile, five more 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, to Union Home Minister Shivraj Patil.

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 though not a single body of the ultras has been retrieved from the jungles so far.

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

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