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At least seven Maoists, including five women, were killed and two others injured in a fierce gunfight in the forests near Zinganur in Maharashtra early on Wednesday, an official said.
A patrol team of the elite C-60 commandos of the Anti-Naxal Operations (ANO) overcame "the brutal firepower" of the Maoists in the deep jungles and eliminated seven of the attackers in what was billed as one of the biggest successes in recent times.
This is the biggest blow to Maoists after 2013 when the ANO commandos had gunned down six Maoists.
The insurgents eliminated on Wednesday were on the police 'wanted' list for several years and collectively carried a reward of Rs 28 lakh on their heads.
The fighting took place around dawn when the Maoists opened indiscriminate fire on the ANO commandoes in the forested outskirts of the small Kalled village, around 15 km from the Zinganur outpost, around 970 km east of Mumbai.
Officials said this was the first time so many women rebels had been gunned down in a single incident. Another two injured Maoists managed to escape.
The Maoists have been identified as Sunita Kodape (reward Rs 6 lakh), Akhila Kulmethe (Rs 4 lakh), Shaila and Sarita (each Rs 2 lakh), Chandu (Rs 6 lakh) and Aiytu (Rs 8 lakh) while one woman has yet to be identified, officials said late at night.
While Sarita hailed from Chhattisgarh, the other five identified are from Maharashtra.
The weapons seized from the Maoists included two SLRs, two 8 mm rifles, two 12 mm rifles, three muzzle-loading guns and assorted ammunition.
The security forces have stepped up security against possible retaliation by the Maoists in all parts of the district especially since it happens to be a transit point for the insurgents who move between Andhra Pradesh and Chhattisgarh.
The security forces have also launched combing operations to find others who may be lurking in the forests in Sironcha sub-district.
The hit on the Maoists came as all the Maoist groups are currently observing their annual 'Peoples Liberation Guerilla Army (PLGA)' week from December 2 to 8 when they seek support of locals, distribute pamphlets and try to enlist volunteers for their cause.
Since the last week of November, Maoists have struck on several occasions and killed at least five civilians suspecting them to be police spies. They also gunned down two security personnel.
(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)