Tuesday, July 1, 2008

35 AP commandos still missing, police fear abduction

Bhubaneswar/Hyderabad, July 01: The search for the missing 35 commandos of Andhra Pradesh's elite anti-Naxal force Greyhounds remained elusive for the third day today after an attack on their motorboat by Maoists amid reports they may have been abducted and kept as hostages.

The AP government meanwhile said it was still prepared to revive talks with Naxalites if they give up violence.

"If Maoists come forward for talks, the government is prepared to talk to them," Home Minister K Jana Reddy told reporters in Hyderabad. He said the government had no objection if journalists or people's organizations played the role of mediators in the talks.

An official of AP police said they were concerned over reports that Maoists might have taken the missing greyhounds as hostages and do not rule out the possibility.

Though the worst is feared, the discovery of body of a commando with his hands tied behind his back and with a bullet injury has fuelled speculation of an abduction.

The first ever direct talks between the AP government and Maoists were held in October 2004 in tune with the pre-poll promise made by the Congress.

However, the dialogue process had collapsed in January 2005 after the Maoists pulled out of the talks alleging that the government was continuing with "fake police encounters".

Orissa Home Secretary T K Mishra said out of the 66 persons, including 61 greyhound force personnel on board the launch, 30 have so far been rescued after the motorboat carrying them was attacked in the Balimela reservoir on the Orissa-AP border on Sunday.

The search operations saw the number of naval divers being doubled to 20 and an increase in security personnel to 1000 for combing operations in the Naxal-infested belt, sources said

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