Naxalites fired from automatic weapons and sank a boat carrying more than 60 security personnel in a reservoir in Malkangiri district of Orissa, bordering Andhra Pradesh, on Sunday. Police officers said 39 personnel were feared dead and the rest either swam to safety or were rescued.
The security personnel — mostly from Andhra’s elite Greyhound force that is involved in fighting Naxalites and two from the Orissa Police — were returning after a combing operation in one of the villages near the reservoir accessible only by boats. Since police presence is virtually non-existent in these villages, the Maoists had declared them as “liberated areas” or places under their control.
Arun Sarangi, DIG (in charge of operations), Orissa, told HT, “A joint operation was launched with the Greyhounds to flush out the Naxals from these villages cut off by water bodies. There are small hillocks within the reservoir through which the motorboat carrying the security personnel was navigating. Perhaps the Naxals ambushed the boat from one such hillock.”
The Maoists did not stop at that, a survivor undergoing treatment at a private hospital in Visakhapatnam said. The Naxalites got into country boats and opened fire on those trying to swim away, he said. Eight of the survivors who swam to safety had bullet injuries.
According to intelligence sources, the Maoists had established a safe sanctuary in the cut-off areas of Chitrakonda area along the Orissa-Andhra border to which there are no road links. HT had reported on June 16 how the rebels were raising ‘boat squads’ in the Orissa-Andhra and Orissa-Chhattisgarh border areas that were separated by rivers.
Inputs from Ashok Das in Hyderabad