BHUBANESWAR: In a major breakthrough, security forces gunned down a senior Maoist leader who carried a bounty of Rs 8 lakh on his head during an exchange of fire between Odisha Police and Left-Wing Extremists at Pakanaguda reserve forests in Malkangiri district in the wee hours of Wednesday.
A District Voluntary Force jawan was also killed in the gun-battle while another suffered injuries.
The slain Maoist was identified as Rakesh Sodi of Chhattisgarh’s Gattapad village. He was Divisional Committee Member of CPI(Maoist) and commanding the military platoon of Andhra-Odisha Border Special Zonal Committee (AOBSZC).
Acting on precise intelligence about presence of Maoists, a joint team of Special Operation Group (SOG) and DVF, led by Malkangiri SP Khilari Rishikesh Dnyandeo, launched an operation in the area on Tuesday night.
“The forces had information that eight to 10 ultras of Chhattisgarh cadre had assembled near Dabuguda region to carry out the subversive activity in Swabhiman Anchal following which the operation was launched,” Director General of Police Bijay Kumar Sharma said.
A team each of SOG and DVF, led by SP Dnyandeo, combed the area. South-Western Range DIG Shefeen Ahmed said Maoists opened fire when they saw the security forces following which the latter retaliated. In the ensuing gun-battle, Sodi was killed, he added.
Sodi, who operated in East Godavari, Visakhapatnam and Srikakulam districts of Andhra Pradesh besides Koraput and Malkangiri of Odisha, was allegedly involved in a number of attacks on the security personnel.
Police said he was part of the unit that blasted a mine-protected vehicle in Malkangiri district in 2008 in which 17 security personnel were killed and also attacked an SOG convoy in Koraput district in 2010 that claimed lives of 11 jawans. Besides, he was behind the attack on the BSF convoy near Janiguda in 2012 in which four officers were killed.
Sodi was also allegedly involved in killing an MLA and a former legislator in Andhra Pradesh in 2018. The DVF jawan, who attained martyrdom, was identified as Jairam Kabasi of Sindrimal village in Malkangiri district. Kabasi belonged to Odisha Auxiliary Police Force (OAPF) personnel and was part of the DVF. Another jawan, Ram Chandra Dhurwa, sustained bullet injury and was airlifted to Visakhapatnam. “He is admitted to a hospital and his condition is stated to be stable,” the DIG said. Police also recovered one AK-47, a .303 rifle, 48 rounds of live ammunition and other materials from the spot. The ammunition apparently was looted from CRPF in the 2017 Burkapal attack in Sukma district of Chhattisgarh.
During 2018 and till August 15 this year, 26 LWE cadres have died in police action and 35 surrendered while 85 have been arrested. Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik recently sought the support of the Centre for early installation of mobile towers at 866 locations in Left Wing Extremism (LWE) affected areas and placement of a dedicated helicopter for the State. He said railway connectivity projects to Malkangiri and Nabarangpur districts should be completed within 36 months.