The Maoists released a photograph of a missing soldier from the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF)’s elite CoBRA unit on Wednesday.
Local journalists in Sukma and Bijapur claimed that they received the photograph sent by a Maoist leader.
On Saturday, 22 members of CRPF’s CoBRA unit, District Reserve Guard (DRG), and the Special Task Force (STF) lost their lives in a five-hour-long clash with Maoists, with reports suggesting that around 20 Maoists were also killed. The Maoists, however, claimed in their statement that only four of their cadres were killed.
CoBRA soldier Rakeshwar Singh Manhas, who hails from Jammu, was missing after the shoot-out.
“ At 11.27am, a photograph of the missing jawan was sent on a WhatsApp number by Maoist leader Vikalp,” said Raja Rathore, a journalist based in south Sukma.
Meanwhile, the family of the Jawan has urged the government to take action and ensure his safe release.
“If a Jawan reports to his duty a day after his leave ends then action is taken against him. Now that a Jawan is missing since April 3 and no action has been taken by government so far. We want the government to search for a mediator so that he is released,” Meenu, wife of Rakeshwar, told media.
The outlawed outfit on Tuesday claimed that Rakeshwar, who went missing after the April 3 ambush in Chhattisgarh’s Bastar region, is in their captivity. The ultras had asked the Chhattisgarh government to appoint interlocutors for his safe release.
The Maoists have, however, not raised any formal demands for the release of the commando.
“As many as 2,000 police personnel had reached near Jiragudem village to execute a major attack (on Saturday). To thwart them, PLGA (Peoples’ Liberation Guerilla Army) retaliated during which 24 security personnel were killed and 31 others injured. We have caught a policeman (CoBRA commando) at the spot while others escaped,” said a statement purportedly written by the Maoists and was circulated on social media on Tuesday.
It said the government should first announce names of interlocutors and the Jawan will be released later. “He will remain safe in our captivity till then,” it said.
The two-page statement was issued in the name of Vikalp, spokesperson of the Dandakaranya Special Zonal Committee (DKSZC) of the Maoists outfit which had been instrumental in executing several deadly attacks in south Bastar, including the Jhiram valley attack in Bastar district on May 25, 2013, in which top Congress leaders of Chhattisgarh unit were killed.
Maoists admitted that four cadres were killed in the Bijapur gunfight and the body of a slain woman cadre could not be retrieved from the spot.
The body of a woman Naxal was recovered by security forces from the encounter spot.