Tirupati, April 7: In a major encounter 20 sandalwood smugglers were shot down in an encounter by the police at Chitoor in Andhra Pradesh. The police and the forest officials who were combing the Chandigiri area were attacked by the sandalwood smugglers which prompted the security forces to fire in retaliation. [Two international red sandalwood smugglers killed in Chittoor encounter]
In the encounter 20 smugglers died while 8 have been severely injured. Two police officials have also been severely injured in the encounter.
A huge combing operation was underway.
80 smugglers on the job:
At the time of the encounter there were at least 80 smugglers in Chandigiri. The police and the forest officials had received credible information about red sandalwood being smuggled in the forest range.
The police commenced combing operations this morning with the help of the forest officials. The smugglers who got wind of the operations opened indiscriminate fire which resulted in a major encounter and offensive by the police and forest officials.
Sources say that there was indiscriminate firing by the smugglers who did not appear to relent for nearly an hour. However the police offensive ensured that several of them were killed and some have even fled from the spot.
The menace of red sandalwood smuggling:
It was only recently that a task force had been formed to check red sandalwood smuggling in the Chitoor and Nellore areas. It was found that several Tamil Nadu based smugglers would enter into the forest area and smuggle sandalwood.
The task force was headed by the Principal Chief Conservator of Forests. It was found that red sandalwood was being smuggled out of the Seshacalam Hill range which spreads across Kadapa and Chittoor. Red sandwood was being smuggled at Rs 10 lakh a tonne.