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ANDHRA PRADESH

Top Janashakti leader, three others killed in encounter

Saturday 2 July 2005

Staff Reporter

Riaz had participated in peace talks with the Government

Civil rights groups cry foul Home Minister calls the encounter real Greyhounds constable killed in Vizianagaram

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Riaz. - A file photo.

KARIMNAGAR/ HYDERABAD: A top leader of the CPI (ML) Janashakti, Riaz, and three other naxalites were shot dead by the police in an encounter on the outskirts of Mohinikunta village in Mustabad mandal of Karimnagar district in the wee hours of Friday.

Riaz alias Venateshwarlu had participated in the peace talks along with top Maoist and Janashakti leaders in October last. An engineering student hailing from Kavali in Nellore district, he discontinued studies and joined the extremist movement in the early Nineties.

Enquiry demanded

The Superintendent of Police, Devender Singh Chouhan, said the police opened fire at the extremists in a mango grove when they came under attack during combing operation. However, civil rights groups and the Janshakti emissary, Chandranna, disputed the claim and accused the police of lifting Riaz, a member of the Central Committee, from Hyderabad on Thursday night and killing him and the others in cold blood later in Karimnagar district. They demanded an enquiry by a High Court judge.

In another incident, a constable of the anti-naxalite Greyhounds force was killed and one more injured in an exchange of fire with the Maoists near Neelakanthapuram village in Kurupam mandal of Vizianagaram district on the Andhra-Orissa border.

The Director-General of Police, Swaranjit Sen, said the police rushed to the village on information that the Maoists were holding a meeting. In the encounter that followed, Manikeshwara Rao (28), a constable of the 3rd battalion of Andhra Pradesh Special Police, was killed. There was no information about casualties on the other side, he said.

Identified

The Karimnagar SP said the other three slain naxalites had been identified as the Karimnagar district committee secretary, Vijay alias Srisailam alias Guttana and two dalam members — Raju, bodyguard of Riaz, and a courier, Gautam. They had gathered for a meeting with district committee leaders and local dalams to chalk out the strategy.

Weapons recovered

Mr. Chouhan said some six naxalites escaped under cover of darkness. Police recovered five weapons, including a 9 mm pistol, an SLR, two 8 mm rifles and one 12 bore gun, about 50 rounds of ammunition, besides four kit bags and party posters. He said Vijay, the district committee secretary, hailed from Mutcherla village of Gambhiraopeta mandal, Raju from Warangal district and Gautam from Medak. The bodies were shifted to Sircilla Area hospital for post-mortem.

Reports refuted

The Home Minister, K. Jana Reddy, the DGP as well as the SP strongly refuted reports that Riaz was picked up by the police from the Vidyanagar area in Hyderabad where he had gone to consult a doctor. The Home Minister described it as "a real encounter."

Buses torched

In swift retaliation to the killing of Riaz, naxalites of the Rachakonda dalam torched five RTC buses and damaged ten others at Toophranpet in Choutuppal mandal of Nalgonda district on National Highway 9.

According to sources, 20 armed naxals stopped the buses by placing boulders across the road. They set the buses blaze after forcing passengers to get down. The driver of a Kakinada-bound bus was thrashed for not opening the door immediately.

Later the naxalites targeted a telephone tower of a private company, partially damaging it.

The naxalites reportedly raised slogans against the Chief Minister, Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy, and the police "for killing naxalites in a fake encounter,’’ the sources said. Following the incident, traffic on the national highway came to a standstill and passengers stranded there were in the grip of tension. The Choutuppal police swung into action and were trying clear the traffic till last reports came in.

The Officer on Special Duty (OSD), V. Ravinder, rushed to the spot and mobilised teams. He said police parties were sent to the Rachakonda area to nab the naxalites involved in the act.

Following the incidents, the Hyderabad and Cyberabad police sounded a red alert. Patrolling on all highways connected to the State capital was intensified. Security was beefed up at vital installations and houses of VIPs.

The DGP’s office said in a press release that the group was involved in 20 killings in the past, including the murder of Rami Reddy, former single-window president of Kalsapadu Mandal, and R. Lakshman of Nookalamarri village of Karimnagar district. The group was extorting about Rs. 5 crores per annum.

Meanwhile, tension is prevailing in the district after this encounter. The police sounded a high alert and advised all those on the naxal hit list to leave for safer places and not venture into villages without prior permission.

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