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Chhattisgarh: Kidnapped CoBRA commando released by Maoists

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The Chhattisgarh government on Thursday informed that the CoBRA commando who was kidnapped by Naxals during the deadly encounter between security forces and the Maoists on April 3 has been released.

The commando, Rakeshwar Singh Manhas, was under Maoist captivity for over 100 hours. He was captured by them during the fierce gun battle that continued for over four hours and resulted in the death of 22 security personnel in Chhattisgarh’s Bastar region.

Manhas’s five-year-old daughter had earlier in an emotional appeal requested for her father’s release. The CPI (Maoist) had on Wednesday claimed that the missing soldier was in their captivity and asked the state government to appoint interlocutors for the release of the commando. The banned outfit, however, did not raise any demand for the release of Manhas.

Statement by Maoist

In a two-page statement issued on Wednesday in the name of Vikalp, spokesperson of the Dandakaranya Special Zonal Committee (DKSZC) of Maoists, the outfit claimed, “As many as 2,000 police personnel had reached near Jiragudem village to execute a major attack (on Saturday). To thwart them, PLGA (Peoples’ Liberation Guerilla Army) retaliated during which 24 security personnel were killed and 31 others injured. We have caught a policeman (CoBRA commando) at the spot while others escaped.”

The statement asked the government to first announce the names of interlocutors and the jawan will be released later. It also assured that the jawan will remain safe in their captivity till then.

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The ultras also claimed that they have seized 14 weapons, 2,000 cartridges and other materials from the encounter site and the pictures released along with the statement exhibit the looted arms and ammunition.

The incident

Twenty-two security personnel were killed and 32 got injured in a four-hour-long encounter with Naxals in Chhattisgarh’s Jonaguda village on April 3, whereas Manhas went missing.

Security forces with a strength of over 2,000 security personnel had on Friday night launched a massive anti-Naxal operation from Bijapur and Sukma in South Bastar forests that are considered Maoist stronghold.

Notably, jawans from the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), its elite unit CoBRA, the Special Task Force (STF) and the District Reserve Guard were part of the operation. The operation was launched from five places—Tarrem, Pamed and Usoor in Bijapur and Minpa and Narsapuram in Sukma.

Sources said that when the patrolling team dispatched from Tarrem was moving through a forest near Jonaguda, it was ambushed by the Peoples’ Liberation Guerilla Army (PLGA) cadres resulting in an intense gun battle.

The ambush was similar to the one executed by Naxals in Tadmetla in 2010 and Minapa in 2020. The Maoists PLGA Battalion was led by its commander Hidma. With a total strength of nearly 250, this group of Naxals was aided by insurgents associated with the Maoist platoons of Pamed, Konta, Jagargunda and Basaguda area committees.

 

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