At least ten Maoists were shot dead in an over-night gunfight which continued into the early hours of Thursday between the ultras and a rival faction, Tritiya Prastuti Committee (TPC), in Chatra district of Jharkhand.
Post encounter, a joint team of the local police and the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) moved into the jungles near Lakramanda village and recovered ten bodies, including that of top Maoist leader Arvindji’s assistant Lalesh, Biru, Praful and Jai Kumar.
One AK-47, three 315 bore rifles and two 303s, looted from the local police, tiffin bombs and pressure cooker bombs were also recovered.
Among them, Lalesh was an important leader as he was the Bihar regional committee secretary and would travel with Arvindji, a central politburo member, besides being an expert in making explosives, sources within the CRPF said.
The intra-Maoist fight was over dominance of area by the ultras in parts of Jharkhand.
After forming a separate outfit in 2002, the TPC had declared that its main enemy was not the police but the Maoists. It has sizeable presence in Chatra, Palamau, Latehar, Garhwa and parts of Hazaribagh district.
This is the heaviest casualty ever in a clash between the two groups.
The gunfight started last night and continued into the early hours of Thursday, SP Anup Birtheray said.
Since the security forces reached the spot, the ultras could not carry away their bodies, he added.
CRPF sources said that the gunfight began after the Maoists were intercepted by the splinter group in the jungle.
The Maoists were returning to Bihar after providing back-up support to their guerrilas engaged in an encounter.
Asked about self-styled TPC area commander Ajayji claiming that 15 Maoists were killed and another 10 taken hostage, the SP said: “We don’t have any information on that. We have only got ten bodies during the search operation.”
When asked if any of the Maoists killed had participated in the encounter with the security forces in Jharkhand, a CRPF official said that it will be known only after an inquiry.