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Lalgarh (West Bengal), June 16 (IANS) Three women were among eight Maoist guerrillas killed in a gunfight with security forces near this Maoist stronghold Wednesday, police said.The bodies have been recovered and a teenage boy arrested, but the casualty on the rebel side could be higher as they are believed to have carried away some the dead bodies and injured comrades, police said.The fierce exchange of bullets that began at 4 a.m. in the Ranjha forest, about 20 km from here, continued till 10 a.m., officials said. A large cache of arms and ammunition has been seized.Several of those killed were teenagers.'We have recovered eight bodies. One injured Maoist has been caught,' West Bengal Director General of Police Bhupinder Singh told IANS.Holding a joint media meet at the Salboni police station, that covers the Ranjha forests, West Midnapore Superintendent of Police Manoj Verma and Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) Deputy Inspector General of Police B.K. Sharma said the bodies were yet to be identified.'Our team is yet to come back. Search operations are on,' Sharma said.Verma described it as one of the biggest operations against the Maoists during the last one year during which the joint forces were deployed to flush out the rebels from this belt and surrounding area.'With these eight, a total of 20 Maoists have been killed since the operation began June 18 last year,' he said.Following specific information that 40-45 armed rebels had set up base in the forest, central paramilitary troopers and police conducted raids in the area, and were greeted by a hail of bullets, Verma added.The operation was led by state police's Deputy Superintendent (Operation) Anish Sarkar. Later, Inspector General of police (Western Range) Zulfiqar Hasan, Sharma and CRPF Inspector General A.k. Shukla also joined the raiding party.'We are also suspecting that the guerrillas might have taken a few of their dead and injured members along with them,' Verma said.Till now there were no reports of causalities on the part of the joint forces.A CRPF trooper said the bodies of eight rebels were spotted in the forest and brought to a primary health centre at Koakhali. Three of the dead were women.'This is a rare instance of security forces getting the bodies of Maoists killed in gunbattle. Normally, the rebels are very particular about decamping with the bodies of their comrades and then burying those away from the spot so that the forces cannot get hold of the corpses,' he said.Verma said an AK-47 rifle, one self-loading rifle (SLR), one .315 rifle, two 9 mm pistols, four landmines, 113 detonators, 26 gelatine sticks, 140 rounds of AK-47 rifle and 31 rounds of SLR, sockets, wires, searchlights and other explosive materials have been recovered from the spot.'On the SLR rifle it is written EFR (Eastern Frontier Rifles) 2nd battalion and on the SLR magazine it is written EFR 3rd battalion. On one side of the SLR is written PLGA (People's Liberation Guerilla Army - the armed wing of the Maoists).'We are suspecting and investigating whether these arms were looted by the ultras when they attacked EFR men at Gidhni and Sialda,' said the SP.Twenty four EFR jawans were killed when the rebels attacked the camp in West Midnapore district Feb 15. Four other EFR jawans were killed in an ambush by the leftwing extremists at Gidhni market under Jamboni police station Nov 8 last year.'From the arms recovery it is clear that a high-ranking leader of the ultras was present there,' Verma said, pointing to the AK-47 rifle.As per the Maoist chain of command, only a senior leader is permitted to carry an AK-47 rifle. Top Maoist leader Koteshawar Rao alias Kishanjee carries an AK-56 rifle.Apart from West Midnapore, Maoists are active in Bankura and Purulia districts of West Bengal.
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