BHUBANESWAR/PHULBANI/BERHAMPUR: A Special Operation Group (SOG) jawan was killed and seven others were injured when the Left Wing Extremists (LWEs) attacked a convoy of security forces at Kanjalguda ghat near Khamankhol under Baliguda police station of Kandhamal district late on Sunday.
The SOG team was returning from an operation along the Kandhamal-Kalahandi border when their convoy came under attack. In the hour long exchange of fire, SOG jawan Laxmikanta Jani was killed while seven others sustained injuries.
Of the injured, four were shifted to MKCG Medical College and Hospital at Berhampur while three are under treatment at District Headquarters Hospital at Phulbani.
This is the first casualty suffered by the elite SOG after 2010 when the Left ultras had blasted a landmine in Koraput’s Mantriamba killing 10 jawans.
The commandos were returning in five vehicles around midnight when the motorcade was targeted by the Maoists. From their hideouts, the Maoist fired heavily at the last vehicle. The jawans retaliated and fired more than 300 rounds and also used grenades at the Maoists using Under Barrel Grenade Launcher (UBGL).
Despite being hit, sources said, the SOG men disembarked the vehicle and took position to fight back till the other team members returned to their support. But for their valiant efforts, casualties could have been more and arms and ammunition would have been lost.
However, the last vehicle of the convoy suffered heavy damage and was allegedly set on fire by ultras, said Kandhamal Superintendent of Police Pinak Mishra.
Sources said the Maoists were also armed with low-impact IED but could not detonate it. However, the attack revealed that the Maoists had made a calculative assault on the security forces by targeting the last vehicle.
“The Khamankhol zone is a vulnerable patch but the ultras had pointed information about movement of the SOG team which was evident from the fact that they zeroed in on the last vehicle. Attacking the last mobile unit virtually makes it very risky for the other vehicles of the convoy to return and retaliate,” the sources said.
After the incident, Director General of Police KB Singh rushed to Phulbani where he went to Baliguda before meeting the injured at Phulbani hospital. Singh said the security forces followed the standard operating procedure (SOP) during the combing operation.