A special team of armed police personnel continued their combing operation in the forest areas near Cherupuzha, bordering Karnataka, on the second day on Wednesday following eyewitness accounts of the presence of armed Maoists in the forest area on the Karnataka side of the border earlier this month.

As many as 40 well-equipped policemen from the district, including the special squad of the Inspector General of Police (Kannur range), carried out the combing operation in the forest area at Mundoli. The forest area is located in Karnataka, the police said.

The search and screening were a continuation of the police operation that began on February 12 evening jointly with the Karnataka Police. Senior police officers here have reached the conclusion that the armed group, met by local people in the area, was that of Maoists.

Workers approached

The district police launched the operation in the border forest area on Tuesday as soon as they got the information of an incident of some local workers being approached by the armed group on February 1. A police team, led by Inspector General (IG) of Police (Kannur range) Jose George and District Police Chief Rahul R. Nair reached the area in the evening and carried out a combing operation. The operation continued on Wednesday with the armed police personnel searching the forest area for five hours. A police team led by Assistant Superintendent of Police Yatheesh Chandra, Iritty Deputy Superintendent of Police M. Pradeep Kumar, Alakkode Circle Inspector Pradeep Kumar, and Payyannur Circle Inspector K.A. Raheem searched the area from 9.30 a.m. to 2.30 p.m., with a Karnataka Police team focusing on another area.

When contacted, the IG told The Hindu that the information available with the police was enough to confirm that the armed people the estate workers had encountered in the forest were Maoists. The suspected Maoist group is said to have 26 people, he said.

More details

As more details are coming in of the encounter between the local people and the armed group, the police officers who questioned six workers, including three women, working in a nearby private land disclosed that the armed group approached the workers and asked for grocery items. Though they were carrying guns on their shoulders, they had not threatened the workers at gun point. The workers had cooked food for the suspected Maoists, the police said adding that the latter had spent nearly three hours with the workers. The Karnataka Police on Tuesday showed the workers the photo of a woman, who, the local people said, was in the armed group. The woman has been identified as Sundari, a Maoist. Four more in the group have also been identified by the Karnataka Police, the officers said adding that the group is also believed to have a Keralite.

Search in Wayanad

E.M. Manoj writes from Kalpetta: Forest and police personnel in Wayanad district intensified their combing operations on Wednesday in search of the militants. Though they combed the Tirunelly area on the Karnataka border on Tuesday and Wednesday, they could not find any evidence of the movement of any militant group there, A.V. George, Wayanad Superintendent of Police, told The Hindu.

Police stations, especially those adjacent to forest areas, have been asked to be on alert, he said.

Two platoons (30 members each) of the Kerala Thunderbolts, an elite group of commandos specially trained for tackling possible terror strikes in the State, would reach the district late evening, he said .They would join officials of the Forest Department and various wings of the State police in the combing operation at the Brahmagiri hills under the North Wayanad forest division on the Kerala- Karnataka border on Thursday morning. A team of forest and police officials from Karnataka are expected to join the combing operation, Mr. George said.

The police have asked the public in the district to inform them of the presence of any unfamiliar people in their locality, Mr. George said adding that valuable information would be rewarded.

Keywords: CherupuzhaMaoists

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