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Top Maoist leader among 26 rebels killed by Indian police

Milind Teltumbde was carrying a reward of five million rupees. Source: Hindustan Times

MUMBAI: Police in India’s western state of Maharashtra have killed at least 26 Maoist rebels, including a top leader, during an ambush operation in a dense forest.

The Maoists, also known as Naxals, have waged an armed struggle against government forces for decades. The militants of the extreme left-wing insurgent movement say they are fighting for the poor who have been left behind in India’s economic boom.

“26 Naxals, including six women were killed in Gadchiroli district. Milind Teltumbde, a central committee member, was also killed on Saturday,” Dilip Valse Patil, Maharashtra’s Home Minister told reporters.

The operation took place on Satursday in Gadchiroli district, on the border between Maharashtra and Chhattisgarh states, and is considered the largest such counter-insurgency operation since 2018, when 42 Maoists were killed in two separate encounters in the area.

The encounter between police and militants lasted for nearly ten hours, said Ankit Goyal, Gadchiroli’s Superintendent of Police. “We had inputs that Naxals were camped in the forest. When special forces raided the area the Naxalities started firing on security forces and in retaliation the security forced engaged in the firing,” he said.

After the encounter ended nearly 10 hours later, bodies of 26 Maoists were recovered from the site, he said. The dead rebels included 20 men and six women, Goyal said, adding that 10 of them were yet to be identified.

The Maoists, considered India’s biggest internal security threat, operate in mineral-rich territory in the east and south of the country known as the “red corridor,” which has shrunk in recent years because of heavy operations against them.

Milind Teltumbde, a leader of the group who was killed was carrying a reward of five million rupees on his head for his alleged involvement in violent activities and was said to be backbone of Naxalite movement in the region. Teltumbde’s bodyguard, Bhagat Singh alias Pradeep alias Tilak Mankur Zade, was also killed in the encounter.

Teltumbde used to move with heavily armed bodyguards and a platoon of Maoists in the forests. According to senior Maoist leader Pahaad Singh, who surrendered in 2018, he took all major decisions of the outfit regarding the zone.