Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Security forces engage Maoists in gun battle after mine attack

Bhubaneswar (IANS): Hundreds of security personnel chased Maoist guerrillas and fought gun battles with them in a forested area in Orissa's Koraput district after the rebels attacked a mine owned by the National Aluminium Company Ltd (NALCO), police said Tuesday.

"We chased them in the forest near Metingi village, which is not far from the Panchpatmali bauxite mine area Monday night," District Superintendent of Police Deepak Kumar told IANS.

"There have been several rounds of exchange of fire between the rebels and security personnel over the past 24 hours. We have also recovered at least five tonnes of explosives from four-five places near this village," he said.

Metingi is 13 km from the bauxite mine in Panchpatmali area that was attacked Sunday night.

Over a hundred armed rebels had laid siege to the mine, some 370 km from here, attacked a Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) camp and looted explosives from a depot they were guarding.

At least 10 security personnel and four Maoist rebels were killed in the gun battle that continued for several hours.

"The rebels, before they escaped from the area, had laid land mines in several places, including on the roads. Most of them have been defused," Kumar said.

Public-sector NALCO is Asia's largest integrated aluminium producer. The bauxite from its Panchpatmali mine feeds the refinery at Damanjodi town nearby. The company has stopped mining operations after the attack.

Maoists are active in more than half of Orissa's 30 districts. They have called for a boycott of the Lok Sabha and assembly elections that are to be held simultaneously April 16 and 23.

There have been several Maoist attacks in the state in the past few weeks.

The rebels killed Somnath Madkami, the Samrudha Odisha party's candidate for the Malkangiri assembly constituency, last week. They also blew up several mobile telephony towers in the same district.

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