Maoist hilltop camp destroyed after 16-hr gunbattle in Jharkhand

Using grenades and mortars, security forces destroyed a hilltop Maoist camp near the Jharkhand-Orissa border after a 16-hour gunbattle and seized claymore mines and sacks of ammonium nitrate.

A CRPF constable died of injuries — six securitymen were injured — in the gunbattle while police claimed some 300 Maoists fled the camp. No Maoist body was found but police claimed ten of them had possibly been killed and their bodies carried away by the retreating Maoists.

Operation Hawk was launched by a joint team of CRPF, CoBRA, STF and police on a tip-off that 300 Maoists led by Kundan Pahan, Samarji, Krishna Ahir, K P Anil and Anmol — these leaders are active in Jharkhand and West Bengal — were camping atop Tebo hill in the Porahat forest division of West Singhbhum district of Jharkhand, near the Orissa border.

To get to the remote hilltop camp, nearly 80 km from Manoharpur block, securitymen had to move on foot and approach it from two ends. From their hilltop positions, the Maoists opened fire. The encounter began at 10 am Saturday and ended 4 pm Sunday.

"Taking advantage of height, they resorted to indiscriminate firing. We also opened fire, lobbed grenades and fired shells from mortars. We moved forward slowly, taking positions behind rocks to scale the hill," said S P Mandal, Dy SP who took part in Operation Hawk.

Six injured securitymen were airlifted and admitted to the Apollo Hospital in Ranchi where Himmat Singh of the CRPF later died.

CRPF IG Alok Raj replied in the negative when he was asked about Maoist casualties. "We did not find any evidence of casualty on their side," Raj told The Indian Express.

But West Singhbhum SP Akhilesh Jha said: "There is strong possibility that ten of them died. And like they always do, they took the bodies with them."

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