Purulia, Nov. 12: At least two Maoists were killed in a four-hour encounter with the joint forces inside a jungle on Purulia’s Ayodhya Hills, two days before the chief minister is scheduled to address a rally at a place 40km from the site of the battle.
A senior police officer said this was the first time the Maoists had suffered casualties at the hands of the security forces in Purulia.
The joint forces had spotted a Maoist camp 2km from Bamni village while patrolling the forests two days ago. The forces had been keeping watch on the camp and this morning, around 7.30am, a team raided it.
Inspector-general of police (western range) Zulfikar Hassan said that when the joint forces team approached the camp, “a group of Maoists started firing at them”.
“The exchange of fire continued till 11.30am. At least two men from the other side were killed. Several Maoists suffered injuries. The injured rebels were taken away by their colleagues deep inside the jungle,” Hassan said.
The IG said reinforcements were sent from Purulia Sadar police station. “The security forces have not suffered any casualties in the encounter. We have detained two villagers for interrogation,” he added.
Hassan said the patrolling was part of “the general operations being undertaken in the Ayodhya Hills to flush out the rebels” and had no connection with Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee’s visit.
The chief minister will address a party rally at Balarampur, 40km from the site of the encounter, on Sunday.
The IG said the patrolling was also part of the search for intelligence branch inspector Partha Biswas and his schoolteacher friend Saumajit Basu. The duo went missing from the Ayodhya Hills on October 22. The police suspect the Maoists have kidnapped them.
Ajay Nand, the deputy inspector-general of the police’s counter-intelligence force; Rajesh Yadav, the Purulia police chief; and C. Sudhakar, the additional superintendent of police, have visited the Jhalda police station area, where the encounter took place.
Yadav said a 9mm pistol, a 12-bore gun and a .303 rifle had been found near the dead Maoists. Several detonators, explosives and four knapsacks were seized from the encounter spot, Yadav added.
An officer said the police had received information that the Maoists had set up several camps inside the Ayodhya Hills jungles. “We consider today’s operation successful,” he said.
Four goatherds who had allegedly been abducted yesterday by Maoists from the fringes of a jungle on the Ayodhya Hills returned to their village around 10am this morning.
The goatherds, however, denied that the rebels had taken them hostage or ordered them to guide the Maoists inside the jungles.
The four youths, all residents of Bhuda village, claimed “policemen from another state” had taken them along to find their way inside the forest.
“They asked us to show the way to three villages. They let us go this morning,” said Kalicharan Mura, one of the goatherds.