PATNA: As many as four Maoists of the People's Liberation Front of India (PLFI), including its wanted area commander Maina Gope, died in a fierce encounter with security forces in a jungle in Jharkhand's Khunti district, police said on Wednesday.
Khunti SP Ashwini Kumar said that the joint team of a CRPF contingent and district police were engaged in the encounter with seven armed Maoists of the PLFI in the Palsa jungle area between Lapung and Karra. The four Maoists were gunned down on Tuesday night, Kumar said.
Apart from Maina Gope, who was carrying a reward of `2 lakh on his head, the three other dead Maoists were identified as Pancham Oraon, Ajit Horo and Vijay Aind, he added.
A police source said an INSAS rifle, two country-made rifles, a pistol, 51 live cartridges, nearly 12 mobile phones, several Aadhaar cards and ATM cards were recovered from the encounter site. Nearly 100 rounds were fired by security forces during the encounter, added the source.
The death of Maina Gope is seen as a major setback to PLFI, a breakaway outfit of the banned CPI(Maoist), in the area. Gope had been active in Khunti and nearby districts for the past few years and had shot dead three men last year.
He started his life as a motorbike mechanic in the mid-2000's with a garage in Lapung. Gopa soon entered the local crime world and developed a rivalry with Samrat gang. He later joined PLFI and was soon appointed the outfit's area commander, said police sources.
Jharkhand DGP DK Pandey, who took a helicopter ride to Khunti along with senior police officials, announced a cash prize of `4 lakh for the police and CRPF team that participated in the encounter.
DGP Pandey said, "We have urged them (Maoists) numerous times to surrender and join the mainstream. We will eliminate the outfit's chief Dinesh Gope soon." He was accompanied by ADG Anurag Gupta, CRPF IG Sanjay S Lathkar, IG (STF) RK Dhan, IG (Operations) Ashish Batra and ADG (Ranchi range) Amol V Homkar.