At least three naxalites were injured in an encounter with police on Wednesday near Koshni forest area under Etapalli tahsil in south Gadchiroli, some 300 kms from Nagpur in eastern Maharashtra.
The encounter comes ahead of the two-phased zilla parishad elections in Gadchiroli on February 7 and 12 and the potential threat to democratic process from naxals. The naxals have already given a poll boycott call in the area.
According to reports reaching here on Wednesday evening, acting on a tip off, around 100 armed anti-naxalite squads from Etapalli and Kasansur police stations went to Koshni village where the naxalites of CPI (Maoist) were holding a secret meeting.
When the police forces approached the Koshni forest area at around 5 pm, the rebels resorted to indiscriminate firing. The police retaliated and sought additional police forces from the nearest police stations.
Sources said the encounter lasted half an hour and the rebels retreated due to heavy gunfire. The police claimed that blood stains of naxalites were found at three spots suggesting that at least three of the rebels could have been injured in the encounter.
"There is no injury on our side. We are safe. But there are reports that at least three naxalites sustained bullet injuries but succeeded to flee the scene," informed Viresh Prabhu, SP of Gadchiroli.
The police continued combing operations in the area and the operations is likely to continue till Thursday morning. The police recovered several naxalite literature, dry ration and cache of arms from the site.
"We have sent additional police forces from different directions to flush out the naxalites and cordoned the area," Prabhu said. According to him, more details were still awaited as the spot of encounter is in a remote area in the district, bordering Chhattisgarh.