Hyderabad: 24 Maoists and a commando were killed in the early hours of Monday as police teams raided a top Maoist meet held at a village near the border between Andhra Pradesh and Odisha. Gajarla Ravi or Uday, who participated in peace talks with the Andhra Pradesh government in 2004, was killed along with prominent Maoist leaders.
A commando of the elite anti-Maoist Greyhound squad, Abu Bakar, was also killed.
Other Maoist leaders allegedly killed in the encounter were Venkatramana or Ganesh, Aruna, Chalapathi, Daya, Bengal Suresh and Munna, whose father Ramakrishna also negotiated on behalf of Maoists. Both Ganesh and Daya had bounties of Rs 20 lakh on their heads.
Eleven women were also killed in the operation that lasted over three hours. This is believed to be the most number of Maoists killed in a single incident.
"They opened fire after which our forces were forced to return fire," said senior Andhra Pradesh police officer Sambasiva Rao.
Two constables of the Andhra Pradesh, who were injured, were airlifted for medical treatment.
Special police teams zeroed in on a village in Malkangiri in Odisha, 20 km from its border with Andhra Pradesh, after intelligence reports of an important meeting of Maoists there.
Many weapons and incriminating material, including three AK-47s, Self-Loading Rifles and 303 rifles were found, the police said. "The recovery of high end weapons indicates that top cadre participated in the meeting,'' a senior Andhra Pradesh police officer told NDTV.
Around 60 Maoists are believed to have attended the meeting. Usually when top leaders attend, there are three rings of security around them.
Revolutionary writer and Maoist ideologue Varavara Rao called today's operation a fake encounter and revenge for the killing of 36 Greyhounds by Maoists in Balimela Reservoir in Odisha in June 2008.
"Just because it is a banned group, it doesn't give the police the right to shoot them dead. Why didn't they try to injure and arrest instead of killing them? There was no exchange of fire. This is a fake encounter,'' Mr Rao alleged.
However, villagers who refused to be named said: "We live under the shadow of (Naxal) terror."