Naxals strike, kill 16 cops

Maoists fire at police party in western Maharashtra’s Gadchiroli district , trigger blasts; 4 women among dead. reports Pradip Kumar Maitra.

india Updated: May 22, 2009 00:03 IST
Pradip Kumar Maitra
Pradip Kumar Maitra
Hindustan Times

Armed CPI(Maoist) cadres struck in western Maharashtra’s Gadchiroli district — one of the most Naxal-infested regions in the country — on Thursday.

A group of more than 70 Maoists ambushed a police team on its way to clear a road blocked by the ultras, killing all 16 personnel, including four women constables.

The Maoists, who were camping near Tabitola village, bordering Chhattishgarh, opened fire on the police personnel. They triggered landmine blasts later, Superintendent of Police Rajesh Pradhan said.

The attack — the fourth major one in the district so far this year — began around 3.30 p.m. and continued for over two hours.

More than five dalams (squads) of Maoists, armed with AK-47 rifles and other sophisticated weapons, attacked the police team, which was taken completely by surprise.

This is the first time women constables have been killed in a clash between Maoists and the police. A strong force under the guidance of Pradhan was rushed to the spot.

The attack was considered to be in response to the surrender of eight hard-core Maoists, including four women, before the district administration on Tuesday evening. The surrender was the first in the district this year.

The Maoists had given a call for a two-day shutdown in the district from Wednesday to protest alleged “police excesses” on tribals in the name of operations against the extremists. They had blocked roads by felling trees.

“The police team had gone there to remove the road blockade,” Pradhan said. “We got a call about the incident at 5 p.m. and immediately sent a rescue party. But before it reached the spot, everything was over,” he said.

Maoists have been active in the tribal district since the 1980s and have been involved in several violent activities.

They have divided Gadchiroli into two operational divisions: south Gadchiroli and north Gadchiroli-Gondia. The divisions have more than 25 armed squads and platoons. Each squad consists of 15 to 29 armed cadres.

Thursday’s attack was the handiwork of the north Gadchiroli-Gondia division. The other major Naxal attack in the insurgency-hit district was in February, when CPI (Maoist) activists had gunned down 15 policemen, including a sub-inspector.

They followed it up by killing three more policemen in the Dhanora area of the district on April 7. The gunbattle lasted over two hours.

And on April 16, the Naxalites had fired at a helicopter on election supervision duty in remote Binagunda area near Bhamragarh in the district. No one was injured.

First Published: May 21, 2009 23:56 IST