KALPETTA: The combing operation launched by a joint team of security forces in Kunhome forests under the Periya Range of the North Wayanad Forest Division for suspected Maoists failed to yield any results on Monday.
The search was launched following a report of exchange of fire between suspected Maoists and Thunderbolts commandos on Sunday. The exchange of fire, later confirmed by the Home Minister Ramesh Chennithala, happened inside the forests near the Mattilayam Chappa tribal colony within the Vellamunda police station limits around 6 pm on Sunday.
The group members, who were reportedly wearing uniforms similar to that of security forces, are suspected to have escaped into the adjoining dense forests in the Kuttiadi range of the Kozhikode forest division.
Kannur Range DIG Dinendra Kashyap, who has been camping in the area, told mediapersons that concrete evidence confirming the presence of an armed gang could be established in the forest area in Kunhome.
“During the search operation, the security personnel have recovered a couple of empty cartridges hundreds of metres away from the spot where the firing took place. Material evidence such as pieces of clothes and a cap, presumably left behind by the armed gang, suggest the presence of an ‘insurgent group’ in the area,” the DIG said, adding that the search would continue on Wednesday.
The combing operation was carried out jointly by the Thunderbolts, Quick Response Team of the Kerala Police, Anti-Naxal Squad (ANS), India Reserve Battalion, local police and forest guards.
The ANS was specially trained in anti-naxal operations in the Maoist-prone areas in Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Uttarakhand, the officials said.
Security at police stations and government offices in the district has been beefed up following specific intelligence inputs on threat from Maoists.
According to police sources, patrolling and combing by security forces are in place and all major roads leading to the district are under strict vigil. Additional security has been provided to all the major government offices, especially to those located on the Kerala-Karnataka and Kerala-Tamil Nadu border areas, added the sources.
Security has also been ramped up at villages in Nilgiris district in Tamil Nadu that share borders with Wayanad.