Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Battle continues: Centre rushes four companies to Orissa

NEW DELHI: Even as the special operation to nab Maoists involved in the Nayagarh attack entered its 4th day on Tuesday, the Centre rushed four more companies of CRPF — roughly 400 personnel — to Orissa as reinforcements.

One more company of the armed police of another state may join the operations, a Union home ministry official said here on Tuesday.

In Orissa, the joint operation by state police, special operations group (SOG), CRPF and Greyhounds, using Indian Air Force choppers for reconnaissance, entered its 4th day.

With the hot pursuit not yielding any major successes in nabbing the Maoists who simultaneously hit at police facilities of Nayagarh on Friday night, including the district armoury — although nearly half of the looted weapons were recovered on Monday — there is now a shift in strategy from chasing the Maoists, believed to be hiding in the caves of Singhasini hills near Buguda in Ganjam district, to waiting for them to emerge.

According to agency reports from Bhubaneswar, IAF choppers are being used to spot Naxals inside the jungles and sniffer dogs have been deployed to lead the forces to their hideouts in Gosmah forests.

The sniffer dogs will also help minimise casualties of the security personnel on account of landmine and clamour mines laid by the Maoists in the jungles.

The change of strategy to nab the Naxals was believed to have been influenced by the death of three prominent members of the SOG, including assistant commandant Pramod Kumar Satpathy during the combing operation, agencies said.

The counter-Naxal forces are now trying to avoid a direct confrontation with Naxalites, whose numbers they are now aware of. Besides, chasing Naxalites is not easy as they have the advantage of being familiar with the forests routes and terrain.

The moonlit night at the time of the attack is said to have helped the Naxal attackers to slip from their hideouts in Gosmah forest when they were encircled by security personnel.

While Kandhamal superintendent of police Nikhil Kanodia is leading a group in Daringibadi area, southern range DIG R P Koche is heading another group.

Even district magistrates of several districts have been asked to help in the operation, arguably one of the biggest in the country so far.

Even though the government claims to have killed 27 Naxals since the operation was launched, Maoists have also gunned down 17 security personnel, including the 14 they killed on Friday.

Not a single body of the Naxalites claimed to have been killed in the operation has been recovered. This is not unusual as Naxalites are known to carry away their dead with them.

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