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AP: Naxals may have taken missing cops hostage

By Mohammed Siddique in Hyderabad
Last updated on: July 01, 2008 18:47 IST
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Even as search operation continues for the 35 missing Greyhound commandos on the Andhra Pradesh-Orissa border for the third consecutive day, police officials have also started apprehending that at least some of the missing persons have been taken hostage by the Maoists after attacking the launch in Machkund reservoir on Sunday.

The possibility of hostage taking emerged after the body of a Greyhound commando was found with his hands tied behind his back and with a bullet injury. The body was recovered on the banks of Sileru river, which joins the Machkund reservoir.

The body has been identified as Uday Nagu of Warangal, a Greyhound commando. The police sources said that it was airlifted to Visakhapatnam on Tuesday morning to be handed over to the family. Another body was also recovered on Tuesday from Sileru.

Ten helicopters of different agencies and 13 divers of the Indian Navy along with the police officials resumed their search operation on Tuesday morning after heavy rains since Monday evening had forced them to suspend the operation. But till now they have not been able to locate the sunk vessel, which was targeted by the outlawed Communist Party of India-Maoist on Sunday morning.

State Director General of Police S S P Yadav said that only 25 policemen and Greyhound commandos could come out safely and 30 to 35 personnel were still missing.

From the statements of the commandos who survived the attack, the police have reached the conclusion that the Maoists involved in the attack were from Andhra Pradesh. "The Maoists were screaming "kalchandi, champandi" (fire and kill them) in Telugu, one of the injured commandos told the senior officers.

The continuing uncertainty over the fate of the missing persons has left their families and near and dear ones hanging between hope and despair. What is adding to their woes and agony is the inability of the top police officials to say anything with finality.

"I can't say anything till the operation is completed," said Akun Sabharwal, the Visakhapatnam district superintendent of police, who was also involved in the search operations.

Meanwhile in Hyderabad, state Home Minister K Jana Reddy strongly denied having said that revenge will be taken for the Maoist attack, "10 times severe." Rueing that the media had distorted his remarks, the home minister told the reporters in Hyderabad that the government will take action in accordance with the law. "If some body talks of taking revenge, it is a violation of the law", he said.

When asked whether the government was willing to re-open peace talks with the Maoists even now, the home minister said that if the Maoists come forward for talks, the government was willing to talk to them. "We will not have any objection if journalists or people's organisations play the role of mediators for talks," he said.

On the other hand, the silence of the civil right groups and other NGOs over the killing of policemen in such a large number by the Maoists has agitated the police officials.

The media organisations in Visakhapatnam received calls from some police officials asking whether they were not human beings to deserve the sympathy of these organisations.

"We are discharging our duty of protecting the lives and property of the people. We are not doing it for our own sake. Why are they not condemning the attack on us," one police officer asked.

Meanwhile, the launch, which sunk with dozens of policemen, was located by the search teams in the Machkund reservoir in Malkangiri district of Orissa on Tuesday afternoon.

According to the information reaching Hyderabad, the launch belonging to Balimela Hydro Project, Orissa, was located by the navy divers who were conducting a search operation to find the 35 missing Greyhound commandos.

The reservoir is located on the Silerru river between Andha Pradesh and Orissa. Now the search teams were planning to bring out the sunken vessel amid hopes that bodies of missing commandos could be stuck inside it. The operation is likely to be completed on Wednesday as arrangements were being made to retrieve the launch.

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Mohammed Siddique in Hyderabad