BSF helicopter fired at by Naxals, second incident this year
A BSF helicopter, involved in lifting commandos conducting anti-Naxal operations, was today fired at by Naxalites in the jungles of south Bastar in Chhattisgarh, officials said. The Mi-17 helicopter suffered bullet shots in the cockpit area but landed safely with the last passenger load of ‘Greyhound’ commandos in Andhra Pradesh’s Bhadrachalam in Khammam district, senior officials involved in the operation said. The helicopter was pressed for troop evacuation after the commando squad conducted an anti-Maoist operation in Sukma district of Chhattisgarh yesterday where ten Naxals were killed.
The incident of opening fire at the chopper took place in Puwarti village under Jagargunda police station area of the district in south Bastar during the evening hours. During the firing, ten commandos of Andhra Pradesh police force were evacuated, they said. Security forces had also thrown a ring around the helipad but still the Maoists attempt to hit the chopper succeeded, they said, adding that a squad of CRPF personnel fanned in the nearby areas to look for Naxal cadres.
Two IAF Mi-17 choppers were also part of the same operation today but they were safe during their entire sortie where they transported 30 Greyhounds personnel from Chhattisgarh to Andhra Pradesh. This is the second incident of Naxalites firing on security forces’ helicopters after an IAF chopper was hit in January in the same district. A joint squad of Andhra Pradesh’s Greyhounds, CRPF and state police had conducted an operation in the area yesterday.
Five women among nine Maoists killed in Chhattisgarh gunbattle
In one of the biggest operations in Dandakaranya region in recent years, security forces claimed to have killed nine Maoists, including five women, in Sukma district of Chhattisgarh on Tuesday morning. “The incident took place at Puvarti under Jagargunda police station area at around 8 am, when a joint team of Andhra Greyhounds, 217 Battalion of CRPF and Chhattisgarh police had an encounter with the Maoists,” said Bastar IG Himanshu Gupta.
Among those killed was North Telangana special zonal committee member Marri Ravi alias Sudhakar, who carried a reward of Rs 20 lakh. “Nine bodies have been recovered, out of which seven have been identified. Besides Sudhakar, his gunmen Ajay was also killed,” said the IG.
The other Maoists who have been identifed are divisional committee member Pushpaka (Karimnagar), Sabitha (Warangal), Arelli Venkat alias Kiran (Karimnagar), Maddi Seetha alias Navatha (Mangapait), Jagan Raju alias Durgam Raju (Warangal). All of them operated in Andhra Pradesh. Security forces also claimed to have recovered 11 weapons, including 2 INSAS and 4 SLRs.
Sources said the entire operation was led by the anti-Naxal force Greyhounds, based on intelligence input that senior Maoist leader Ramanna and other cadres were in Sukma’s Puwarti area, over 600 km south of capital Raipur, for a “tactical counter offensive campaign” meeting. Ramanna is believed to be behind the 2010 Dantewada attack that left 76 CRPF personnel dead. It was his “military company” that came under attack today.
“This is one of the most important wings of the Maoists as they are well-armed and trained in jungle warfare. Their prime job is to provide security to the top ten leaders,” said an official. Officials alleged that the Maoists used children from the nearby villages as “human shields”. “They sat on tractors and surrounded themselves with children before fleeing the site,” said an official. Sources said there was an increasing trend among the Maoists to recruit more women. Senior Home ministry officials said women constituted at least 40-50 per cent of the new cadres inducted by the Maoists recently.
Encounter in Chhattisgarh: State borders sealed
KORAPUT: Fearing a possible influx of Maoists into Odisha following an encounter between Red rebels and a joint team of CRPF personnel and Greyhounds of Andhra Pradesh in bordering Chhattisgarh on Tuesday, security has been beefed up in Maoist-hit Malkangiri district. “Though the place of encounter is over 100 km from our border, but we can’t take chances and have strengthened our anti-Maoist operation along the border areas. Security personnel have been kept on high alert to avert a possible sneaking of ultras into the district,” said SP (Malkangiri) Akhileswar Singh.
While borders have been sealed, extra forces have been deployed at possible waterways, which could be used by the Left-wing extremists to enter the district. “Vehicles entering into the district are being frisked. Extra forces have also been deployed at strategic locations,” the SP said.
At least nine extremists were killed in the encounter between security personnel and the Red rebels belonging to south Bastar division committee of the outlawed CPI (Maoist) at Puvarthi village inside Kanchala forest in Chhattisgarh. Police said the exchange of fire lasted for one hour.
Two INSAS guns, two .303 guns, a carbine, an SBML gun, a pistol, an SLR, an AK 20 rifle and huge quantities of bullets, three cellphones, and Rs 19,000 cash among other Maoist belongings were recovered from the Maoist camp. While an exchange of fire had occurred between Maoists and security men at Tekguda forest under Kalimela police limits in the district recently, the rebels had murdered sarpanch of Kurmanur panchayat Bhagaban Kirsani earlier this month suspecting him to be a police informer.
CRPF to purchase high-end defence gear to take on Naxals
The CRPF is purchasing more than a dozen defence manufactured UAVs and a number of mine protected troop carriers to aid and guide ground patrols of the force conducting anti-Naxal operations. The country’s largest paramilitary, thick in action against the Maoists, has decided to make these big ticket purchases from indigenous defence establishments like the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) and the Ordnance Factory Board (OFB).
The decision to purchase from indigenous defence establishments has been made with a view to fast-track the purchases and get an early delivery of these sophisticated machines as compared to the timeline of foreign vendors and global purchases. Sources said the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) will get almost 15 ‘Nishant’ Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) and more than three dozen OFB Kolkata made counter-landmine vehicles which protect troops from hidden mines.
“Both the machines coming from the defence stable are aimed to get the troops a better operational preparedness in the Naxal terrain and also save our men from the deadly landmines planted clandestinely beneath the tracks in Naxal-hit areas,” a senior official said.
The CRPF, which has deployed close to 85,000 personnel for anti-Naxal operations, at present is flying UAVs in Maoist zones in order to give its foot soldiers an advanced view of the jungle terrain and indicate possible movement of armed Maoist cadres with the help of the ‘Netra’ mini-UAVs. The force now will use the bigger UAV ‘Nishant’ developed by the Aeronautical Development Establishment (ADE) of the DRDO and used by the Indian Army.
The ‘Nishant’ can undertake day and night missions using advance payloads and has a command link and digital downlink. It is compact and easily deployable system and can undertake day and night battlefield reconnaissance, surveillance and target tracking.
The machine has an endurance capacity of four-and-a-half hours and it achieves maximum speed of 185km per hour. The OFB manufactured mine-protected troop carrier, the CRPF thinks, will give an enhanced security to its troops who have been killed in earlier variants after explosives as high as 80kgs was blasted beneath these mammoth armoured machines tossing the vehicle in air, killing and maiming many personnel out in the jungles.
The force is aiming to purchase close to 40 such landmine protected vehicles for its battalions in Naxal areas and the Kolkata based OFB has agreed to supply these machines which promise better ergonomics and enhanced resistance to IED and explosives blast under the hull or tyres of the machine. “The manufacturers wanted the CRPF to give a substantial order so that they can activate their production lines for these machines quickly.
This assurance has been already conveyed,” the official added. The latest UAVs, once inducted into the CRPF stable, will be based in a squadron formation in Chhattisgarh and Maharashtra and they will undertake sorties from multiple locations on a requirement basis, sources said.
The CPI(Maoist), on the backfoot after prolonged operations in Saranda forest in Jharkhand’s West Singhbhum district, is planning to strengthen itself with tie-ups with insurgent groups in the Northeast.
A letter sent to 13 states, including Jharkhand, by the Union Ministry of Home Affairs on Maoist efforts to expand to new areas said that they planned to strengthen their Eastern Regional Bureau which was guiding the movement in all the states of the eastern region. “… The North-East is another region where the CPI (Maoist) is trying to spread its wings … with the objectives include strengthening the outfit’s Eastern Regional Bureau, procurement of arms/ammunition/communication equipment,” the six-page letter said.
It noted that the CPI-Maoist had developed close relationship with the Manipur-based People’s Liberation Army, which was not only in a position to procure weapons from foreign sources, but had also provided training to Maoist cadres. The NSCN (I/M) also appeared to have been used for training to the rebels, it said.
The letter, however, said it would not be easy for the Maoists to establish themselves in the the Northeast abounding in ethnicity based militias, but they could use their ‘theoretical support’ to ‘nationalities’ and to gain a foothold in the region and forge relationships with ethnic militant groups.
The Maoists presence was first noticed in Assam in 2006 with the ultras targeting the ‘existing political movements’, the letter said. It estimated that the banned Maoist outfit had around one hundred cadres, including 25 to 30 armed, in Assam and with Mahesh, a Central Committee member from the Rabha community appearing to be in charge. Quoting the Assam Police, the letter said 23 of the 79 police stations in Tinsukia, Dibrugarh, Sibsagar, Dhemaji and Lakhmipur districts in Assam were affected by Left-wing extremism with cadres extorting small tea gardens, cattle-rearing farms and individuals to sustain itself.
“… the Maoists have done some ground-work in the tea garden areas where a local Maoist leader, Aditya Borah, is at the forefront of efforts to recruit Adivasis in Dibrugarh and Tinsukia districts,” the letter said. Some recently arrested Adivasi Tiger Force militants revealed that they had close links with Borah and that Maoists from West Bengal were providing ideological training to Adivasi youth, the letter said.
West Bengal,Odisha, Jharkhand to launch joint operation against Maoists
Jhargram, West Bengal: Security forces of West Bengal, Odisha and Jharkhand today decided to launch a joint operation against Maoists in their common border areas. Jhargram Superintendent of Police Bharati Ghosh said officers of various levels of the police, CRPF and CISF of the three states attended a meeting held in the SP’s office in Jahrgram.
It was decided at the meeting that a joint operation would be launched against the Maoists in the border areas, Ghosh said. However, she did not divulge the exact date of commencing of the operation. Jungle Mahal region in southern West Bengal comprising the forested areas of Purulia, West Midnapore (which included Jhargram police district) and Bankura district has borders with Odisha and Jharkhand and was a Maoist stronghold a couple of years ago.
Their activities slowed down after the Mamata Banerjee-led government came to power in May 2011 and CPI (Maoist) politburo member Kishanji was killed six months later. However, in recent months, there were indications that the red rebels were trying to regroup in Jungle Mahal.