Naxals in Chhattisgarh have released a statement wherein they have claimed that the missing Commando Battalion for Resolute Action (CoBRA) commando is in their custody. The missing jawan has been identified as constable Rakeshwar Singh Manhas of the 210th CoBRA battalion, an elite unit of CRPF. He went missing after the April 3 gunfight between Naxals and security personnel near Sukma-Bijapur border.
The two-page letter, penned by banned Communist Party of India (Maoist), stated that the outfit is willing to negotiate with the Centre. It has asked the government to appoint a mediator to negotiate for the release of Manhas.
"One jawan is in our custody. We are ready to negotiate with the government. They can announce mediators. We will release him (captive jawan). Police jawans are not our enemies," the outfit said in the letter.
Police are verifying the authenticity of the statement. The banned outfit also admitted that four of its cadres were killed in the encounter in which 22 security personnel had lost their lives.
"The authenticity of the statement issued by Maoists claiming that they have held hostage the jawan is being verified. Further action will be taken accordingly," Inspector General of Police (Bastar range) Sundarraj P said.
he outfit claimed that as many as 2,000 police personnel had reached near Jiragudem village to execute a major attack on Saturday. To thwart them, PLGA (Peoples' Liberation Guerilla Army) retaliated.
It said the government should first announce names of interlocutors and the jawan will be released later. "He will remain safe in our captivity till then," it added.
The ultras also claimed to have seized 14 weapons, 2,000 cartridges and other materials from the encounter site. The photographs issued with the purported statement shows the looted arms and ammunition.
According to the police, ten weapons, including seven AK-47 rifles, two SLR rifles and one Light Machine Gun (LMG), of the security personnel went missing after the attack.
Manhas was part of a squad that had gone for an anti-Naxal operation on Friday night in the jungles on the Bijapur and Sukma border. On Saturday, the gunfight broke out between security forces and ultras between Tekalguda and Jonaguda villages in which 22 troopers were killed and 31 others injured. Out of the 22, the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) lost eight personnel, including seven CoBRA commandos and one jawan from its Bastariya battalion, eight from the DRG and six from the Special Task Force.