HYDERABAD/TIRUVANNAMALAI:The Andhra Pradesh police arrested at least 12 red sanders ‘smugglers’ during a combing operation in a Nellore district forest area on Saturday.
The arrested people are suspected to be part of at least 100 smugglers/woodcutters who came face-to-face with the police a few days ago and of whom 20 were gunned down in the Seshachalam forest area.
Meanwhile, over 40 tribal youth from Jawadhu Hills near Tiruvannamalai are still believed to be hiding in the Seshachalam Reserve Forest area.
Police department sources said two woodcutters from Jamunamaruthur, engaged by the red sander mafia to fell the trees, fled the forest after learning about the alleged ‘encounter’. They told villagers and friends that more than 40 people, hailing from several villages in Jamunamaruthur, are still inside the forest and have refused to leave the logs they cut down and return to their hometowns. “Unwilling to abandon the red sander logs, they have stacked the lumber inside the forest area and are holed up there,” said a police officer quoting a source.
Meanwhile, sources in Andhra Pradesh told Express that during the ongoing combing operations in the forest areas in Anantapur, Chittoor and Nellore, police task force teams learnt about the movement of 30-40 red sander ‘smugglers’. The personnel are believed to have surrounded the group and managed to nab 12 of them. “Red sander smugglers often stay put in forests for months. During quizzing of some smugglers, we learnt that they stay there for even six months. Sometimes, forest fires occur after they leave behind burning firewood,” said a police officer, adding that there is a likelihood of nabbing more smugglers soon.