An alleged sandalwood smuggler died when Forest Department staff opened fire in the Ramadevara Halla forest area on Monday night.

The department staff, who were on routine rounds, encountered a gang of smugglers in the forest. “After seeing the department personnel, the gang members, who were armed with weapons, started throwing stones at them. Two of our staff sustained injuries in the incident,” R.N. Lakshman, Deputy Conservator of Forests, said. Jayanna, forest guard, and P.C. Chandru, forest watcher, who sustained injuries, have been hospitalised.

The identity of the alleged smuggler is yet to be ascertained.

The authorities had intensified night patrolling in the Ramadevara Halla forest area, where the department has sandalwood plantations, following reports of smuggling.

Rajashekhara Gowda, Deputy Range Forest Officer of Belur, in his complaint with the Halebid police, said that department staff noticed a group of 10–12 smugglers in the forest around midnight on Monday. As soon as they saw the staff, the smugglers started throwing stones at them. The staff opened fire for their safety, the complaint said.