At least 13 Maoists, including a woman, were killed in an exchange of fire with the police in the Salaikota reserve forest, about 11 km from Padia and 35 km from Malkangiri, in South Odisha on Saturday.
According to the police, a huge cache of ammunition was recovered from the site where 30 to 40 Maoists were conducting a camp.
“Thirteen bodies were shifted to the district headquarters town of Malkangiri. Search operations for the dead and injured, if any, are continuing. An inquest is being conducted,” a senior IPS officer in charge of the operations told The Hindu.
A gunfight took place in the early hours after the Maoists fired at a group of the District Voluntary Force, mostly comprising ex-servicemen and personnel of the Special Operation Group of the Odisha police late night on Friday.
“On Saturday morning, we found 13 bodies along with two big claymore mines, several improvised explosive devices, AK 47s, country-made pistols and magazines,” the officer said.
Odisha DGP Prakash Mishra told journalists in Bhubaneswar before flying to Malkangiri that the operation, led by Malkangiri SP Akhileswar Singh, was well planned and executed. Mr. Mishra set an ultimatum for the militants to leave Odisha or face severe consequences. This is the first major operation the Odisha police conducted without involving the Central Armed Police Forces and the Andhra Pradesh police.
The site is close to Darbha in Chhattisgarh, where Maoists had killed Salwa Judum founder and tribal leader Mahendra Karma and 18 others in a deadly attack on the convoy of Chhattisgarh Congress leaders on May 25. The police suspect that the dead belonged to the Local Operational Squad (LOS) of the Padia area and the Dandakaranya Special Zonal Committee. The two groups were part of the Kalimela squad, which is active in the Dandakaranya region of Odisha and Chhattisgarh. Maoists increased their activity in the Dandakaranya region after they were flushed out of North Telangana of Andhra Pradesh.