The banned Communist Party of India (Maoist) has claimed that a member of the Commando Battalion for Resolute Action, or CoBRA, who went missing during the encounter in Chhattisgarh last week, is in their captivity, PTI reported on Tuesday. CoBRA is a unit of the Central Reserve Police Force.
The police are looking into the authenticity of the statement. Maoists also reportedly asked the government to appoint interlocutors for the release of Rakeshwar Singh Manhas. “Till then, he will be safe under our security,” the Dandakarnya Special Zonal Committee of the CPI (Maoists) said, according to The Indian Express.
The purported statement, addressed to the public, claimed that Maoists had killed 24 security personnel, according to the newspaper. Maoists also claimed to have procured weapons after the encounter.
Twenty-two security personnel were killed and at least 30 more were wounded in the four-hour gun battle with Maoists that took place in the forests of Bijapur in Chhattisgarh on April 2. This was the bloodiest ambush of its kind in four years.
One of the survivors of the encounter had said that they were attacked by over 400 Maoists from three sides. The ambush lines stretched over 2 km near Tekulguda village. Running gunfights broke out near Tekulguda, Jonaguda and Jeeragaon villages, he added.
On Sunday, when the rescue terms were still scouring for bodies at the ambush site, Bastar Inspector General of Police P Sundarraj had confirmed that Manhas was alive but missing.
Since then, the security agencies, including the CRPF and the district police, have been making frantic phone calls to sources within Bijapur, including local journalists, to make enquiries about Manhas.
Meanwhile, Manhas’ wife appealed to the Maoists to let him go. A video of Manhas’ five-year-old daughter making an appeal for his release was also widely circulated on social media, “I love my father very much, please Naxal uncle spare my father and send him home,” the soldier’s daughter could be heard saying in the video.