In a major success for security forces, 12 Maoists, including three women, were shot dead and many more injured in an encounter on Wednesday in a forest in West Midnapore, almost a year after anti-Naxal operations were launched in the district in West Bengal.
"Twelve Maoists were killed by the joint forces. It is a major success. We found eight bodies. We have information that four of the bodies were carried away by Maoists while many more were injured," Director General of Police Bhupinder Singh told reporters in Kolkata.
"Acting on a tip off that 40 to 45 Maoists had gathered at Duli village near Ranja forest in Salboni police station area, a team of commandos and special forces of CRPF and police closed in," the DGP said.
"When the Maoists opened fire, the forces retaliated," Singh said.
He said Union Home Minister P Chidambaram and Union Home Secretary G K Pillai congratulated the joint forces for the successful operation.
"Though none of the bodies has been indentified, there is information that a big Maoist leader is among them," Singh said.
Admitting deaths, Maoist spokesperson Akash told PTI from an undisclosed location that "the joint forces attacked us in the morning. They belonged the to the People's Liberation Guerrilla Army, the armed wing of Maoists. They were asleep at the time."
The Maoist spokesman, however, claimed only five were killed in the encounter.
He identified them as Arjun (Deputy Section Commandant), Raghav, Malati, Mangal and Ganga.
District Superintendent of Police Manoj Kumar Verma said a huge quantity of arms and ammunition were recovered after the encounter.
One AK 47, one SLR, four .315 rifles, 100 detonators, 30 gelatin sticks, 140 rounds of ammunition, four landmines, searchlights and a huge quantity of wires were found at the encounter site, he said.
"An injured Maoist was also arrested. He is being treated and will be interrogated," he said.
The DGP said the rifles recovered appeared to have been the ones taken away by Maoists during the February 15 raid on the Sildah camp of the EFR 2nd battalion and 3rd Battalion in the district, which left 24 personnel dead.
Police sources said the Maoist group was led by Bikash Mahato who fled away during the encounter.
District Magistrate Narayan Swarup Nigam said the watch along the border with Jharkhand was intensified because it was anticipated that Maoists might be hiding in the area. PTI