The gunbattle started under Mohana police station area after security forces raided a rebel camp, a senior police officer said. He also said that some rebels escaped into the forest following the clash.
DIG of Police, Southern Range, RK Sharma said the bodies of the slain Maoists were yet to be recovered. The killed extremists belonged to an outfit led by Sabyasachi Panda, he said. Panda was recently expelled from the CPI(Maoist) and formed the Odisha Maobadi Party.
Police sources said whereabouts of Panda were not known although the latter was present in the camp during the operation that was jointly led by the Special Operation Group and District Voluntary Forces.
Gajapati Superintendent of Police (SP) CS Meena said the operation against the extremists was started after the authorities received specific information about Maoist movements. Meena was coordinating the operation with Ganjam SP Ashish Singh.
More than half of Odisha is infected by Maoist activists and Gajapati district is considered one of their strongholds.