A Maoist guerilla was killed during a three-hour gunfight between the rebels and joint security forces in West Bengal's West Midnapore district early Tuesday, police said.
The rebels immediately retaliated by gunning down a man near the site of the gun battle in Bakshibandh area, about half a kilometre from a Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) camp.
Acting on a tip-off that a Maoist squad has assembled at Bakshibandh and "was up to something", joint security forces comprising central paramilitary troopers and crack state security personnel raided the area and engaged the guerrillas in a gun battle, said West Midnapore Supreintendent of Police Manoj Verma.
"The encounter started at 2.30 a.m. and continued till 5.30 a.m. We have recovered the body of a Maoist," Verma said.
A large cache of arms and ammunition, including two .303 rifles, a sten gun, another licensed gun, bullets, one small landmine and wires, was seized.
Verma said some of the arms could have been seized by the rebels from the security forces.
He said around 12-15 rebels -- part of the action squad led by top Maoist commander Bikash -- were present at the site, and several of them were believed to be injured in the clash.
"The Maoists carried several of their injured comrades with them while fleeing."
"This is a great success. Recently, there were incidents of Maoists indulging in killings and forcing people to attend their meetings in the area. It has been a Maoist den for long. (Top Maoist leader) Kishanji was based here earlier, but left the spot after we tightened security," the police officer said.
The Maoists were now on the backfoot after a series of police actions in the district, he claimed, and appealed to the people to support the forces.
"If people don't come to our support, we cannot succeed," he said.
Verma also hoped that the successful operations of the joint forces would give a message to those among the rebels who wanted to surrender.
At least 15 Maoist action squad members, including one of their top commanders, Sidhu Soren, have been killed in clashes with the joint security forces in the district over the last two months.
"Those who have gone astray should make use of the surrender policy announced by the government and give themselves up," he added.
However, even as Verma was claiming success, the rebels struck back by pumping bullets into a man who they described as a Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) agent.
The unidentified body was found lying in Dherua, about 30 km from Midnapore town, with posters found near it.
Midnapore town, the headquarters of West Midnapore district, is about 120 km from state capital Kolkata. Apart from West Midnapore, the rebels also have bases in the adjoining Bankura and Purulia districts.