Andhra Pradesh Police Monday claimed to have identified three main assailants in the killing of two TDP leaders, including an MLA, in the attack by CPI (Maoist) and launched a massive hunt for them. Police zeroed in on the three based on inputs provided by eyewitness, a day after the daring attack, the first major strike by the Maoists in Andhra Pradesh in several years.
Araku MLA Kidari Sarveswara Rao and former legislator Siveri Soma, both Scheduled Tribes, were shot dead Sunday at Lippitiputta village when they went there to take part in a 'grama darsini' (village visit) programme.
Police identified the three key assailants as Jalamuri Srinu Babu alias Sunil alias Rhino of Addateegala in East Godavari district, Kameswari alias Swarupa alias Sindri Chandri alias Rinki of Bhimavaram town in West Godavari district and Venkata Ravi Chaitanya alias Aruna of Pendurthi Mandal in Visakhapatnam district.
"As per the inputs provided by eyewitnesses, we have identified three main Maoists who were involved in the killing of the MLA and the former MLA. We have accordingly launched an extensive combing operation with district police and special forces," Visakhapatnam Rural Superintendent of Police Rahul Dev Sharma said in a release here Monday evening. Aruna was a member of the south zonal committee.
Earlier, a senior police officer, overseeing a joint combing operation by Andhra Pradesh and Odisha police in the border areas to trace the outlaws, said the attackers were led by Aruna, a member of CPI (Maoist) Andhra-Odisha Border Committee.
"We have preliminary information that the attack on the TDP leaders was led by Aruna. She led a team of Maoists to Araku 10 days ahead and conducted a recce before executing the killings," he said. The execution was suspected to have been plotted by Maoist AOB Committee secretary Ramakrishna and his key aides, the officer said. Incidentally, Ramakrishna and other key members of the AOB Committee had a narrow escape in the October 24, 2016 encounter in Odisha, in which 27 ultras were gunned down by Andhra Pradesh, Odisha and Central police forces in a joint operation.
At least 20 of the 50 Maoist activists who took part in the attack Sunday were women and mostly in the 20-25 age group, the officer said.
Meanwhile the last rites of the two TDP leaders were performed in Visakhapatnam Agency (area dominated by tribals) Monday. While Sarveswara Rao (45) was cremated in Paderu, Siveri Soma (52) was buried as per Christian tradition in Araku with state honours. Deputy Chief Minister (Home) N China Rajappa, several other ministers and Visakhapatnam District Collector Pravin Kumar visited Araku and paid homage to the slain leaders. Rajappa said the situation in the Agency was under control and police have been deployed for security.
Additional Director General of Police (Intelligence) AB Venkateswara Rao and ADG (Law and Order) Harish Kumar Gupta visited Araku and Paderu to take stock of the situation. Visakhapatnam Range Deputy Inspector General of Police Srikanth is also camping in Araku to monitor law and order, a police spokesman said.
The two-day bandh called by tribal associations in protest against the killing of the MLA and ex-MLA was incident-free in Paderu and Araku. Meanwhile, Visakhapatnam Rural Superintendent of Police Rahul Dev Sharma said the high alert continued to be in force in the Agency and Andhra-Odisha border area.
Combing operations were being carried out jointly with Odisha police and special forces were also taking part in it. He said a thorough investigation was being carried out into the killing to the legislator and the former MLA.