Combing operations on in 22 Lalgarh villages

With Kantapahari recaptured, all borders of Lalgarh had been sealed, a senior police officer said.

"Now we want to ensure that the extremists do not come back to the area. We are consolidating the position we have gained so far," the police officer said.

He said the Maoists might have left West Midnapore district and retreated into neighbouring Jharkhand after Kantapahari, the ultras' last stronghold in Lalgarh, fell to security forces yesterday.

As the operations against the Maoists entered the 13th day, central forces and police are now engaged in sanitising all 22 villages of Lalgarh.

Yesterday, the forces searched Baropelia, Chotopelia, Dalilpur chowk and other villages for suspected Maoists and possible arms and ammunition.

The police suspects that Maoists may still be present in some pockets like Sejua, Koima and Kalimuri.

At Salgora village in the Sejua area, the forces recovered ammunition and also detained three suspected Maoists.

A PTI correspondent went through 12 villages yesterday and found there were hardly any people left except some old and infirm persons.

Starting their operation on June 18, the security forces have gained control over Pirakata, Bhimpur, Lalgarh, Ramgarh and Kantapahari.

A task force comprising eight secretaries is scheduled to arrive today in Lalgarh to oversee development work in tribal areas and help the government prepare an economic development package for them.

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