Five commandos missing in gun battles in Dantewada

Heavy gun fights broke out between security forces and the Maoists in the Bastar forests of Chhattisgarh on Friday, resulting in the death of seven rebels and an assistant commandant of the Commando Battallion for Resolute Action, (CoBRA), the counter-insurgency unit of the CRPF, officials from Raipur, the State headquarters, said.

Five CRPF commandos were reported missing and a massive search operation was on for them in the jungles on the southern-most tip of Chhattisgarh. But chances of their survival were remote, police sources told The Hindu.

Officials were certain that the Maoist casualties could be significantly high, but they refused to hazard a guess on the death toll. The slain Assistant Commandant was identified as Manorajan Singh, while the naxals were not yet identified.

A dozen weapons including an SLR, two 12 bore weapons and muzzle loaders were recovered in addition to heavy duty lathe machines being used for making double barrel guns.

Heavy contingents of Chhattisgarh police and the CRPF were inching their way into the jungles, anticipating large-scale ambushes in the triangle-shaped core area between Palachelama, Kistaram and Chintalnar villages of Dantewada district.“It was not just one exchange of fire.

There were waves of attacks on security forces. Till last reports came in skirmishes were continuing,” a senior police officer monitoring the counter-insurgency operations said at 7 p.m.

The assault, one of the biggest in the recent times in the rebel-controlled forest area, was taken up on Wednesday when State police and the CoBRA units moved into the forests on actionable inputs about a weapon-making unit set up by rebels near Botatang, a village on the north-east of Karigundam.

The assault teams captured the unit after facing stiff resistance on Thursday. Maoists used machine guns to halt the progress of the forces.

In the fierce gun battle, one naxal was killed and by evening security forces took over the unit.

On Friday, when these teams were returning to base camp, about 20 km away, they were ambushed by the rebels, who must have quickly regrouped. The naxals sprayed bullets on the security forces, which retaliated.