The Centre on Thursday said the person killed in an encounter in West Midnapore was most probably top Maoist leader Kishenji and it was awaiting a final confirmation from the West Bengal police.

“Most likely it is Kishenji. The officers on the spot said that it is Kishenji and most likely, 99 per cent it is Kishenji,” Union Home Secretary R.K. Singh told reporters reacting to reports about the killing of the Maoist leader.

Mr. Singh said the Home Ministry has sent the latest photographs of the Maoist leader for comparison and final confirmation.

“We have said that we have to be certain before we declare. We have sent the latest photographs of Kishenji for comparison,” he said.

The Home Secretary said killing of Kishenji was a “huge setback for the Naxals as he was number three in the hierarchy of the CPI(Maoists)”.

Mr. Singh said the West Bengal and Central forces were following Kishenji for quite some time after getting information about him and Thursday’s encounter was the result of that effort.

The Home Secretary said joint operations against the Maoists will continue in West Bengal and other Maoist-affected States.