Maoist siege ends, forces take over Katapahari

Maoist siege ends, forces take over Katapahari

Security forces on Monday finally liberated the arc called Lalgarh in West Midnapore district from the Maoists’ siege after troopers captured Katapahari without any bloodshed, completing the first phase of the operation codenamed “Red Soil”.
However, before fleeing towards the forested Bengal-Jharkhand border, the extremists mounted some sporadic gunfire on the forces who advanced from two flanks to retake Katapahari, the last formidable bastion of the ultras as an Indian Air Force chopper kept hovering over the region, monitoring the movement of the Maoists.

At two places near Salboni and Sijua, forces were fired upon by the ultras who detonated as many as six mines. But, once the paramilitary forces began charging from automatic weapons and mortar fires, they fled towards the Jharkhand border, leaving a huge cache of detonators and crude mine manufacturing material besides bows and arrows in a house at Katapahari.

“We have achieved one major target on Monday and now, we’ll engage ourselves in restoring the law and order and instilling people’s confidence in police. A base camp will be set up at Katapahari,” Siddhinath Gupta, DIG,CID(Operations)  told newsmen.
Gupta, who led the forces from Ramgarh in the north, shook hands with Praveen Kumar, DIG(Midnapore Range), who marched from Lalgarh to converge on the hamlet, Katapahari, with the two supercops leading around 1,600 personnel from the BSF, the CRPF and the special anti-naxal force, CoBRA. “Operations will continue, and taking control of Katapahari was part of it,” Kumar said, indicating that the forces will not leave the place unless the total sanitisation is complete in the region that remained under the Maoists control for more than eight months.

Even though the security forces have now decisively established their presence in the area, marking the return of the writ of the state, questions are being asked why the armed band of Maoists numbering around one hundred were allowed to escape towards Jharkhand. “The state government has appealed to its Jharkhand counterpart to seal the border and we hope it has been done,” an official told Deccan Herald, but skirted a direct reply as to why the actual sealing is being delayed.

Both the local Naxal leader Siboo Soren and the Peoples Committee Against Police Atrocities(PCAPA) supremo Chatradhar Mahato, who were there at Katapahari even on Sunday, went underground.

“I don’t know why the police want to arrest me as I have not committed any crime,” claimed Mahato against whom the authorities have issued an arrest warrant. The PCAPA had virtually made Lalgarh a “free zone” for the last seven months by torching police camps and driving out the civil administration.

“Villagers have helped and cooperated with us.We hope we’ll get cooperation from them in the coming days also,” Gupta said.

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