In a blow to the Maoists, one of their top leaders was killed along with five other Naxals after a nightlong encounter with security forces at Motera jungle in the district, which also left a Central Reserve Police Force commando dead.
Acting on an intelligence tip-off, special teams of the CRPF and anti-Naxal force SAF conducted an operation in the dense forests under Golatore police station on Sunday night which continued till the wee hours this morning, official sources said.
The Maoists, who were caught by surprise fired back and during the more than four-hour-long gunbattle that followed, six were killed, West Midnapore Superintendent of Police Manoj Verma told PTI in Kolkata.
In the encounter, Sidhu Soren, the chief of Sidhu-Kanhu Gana Militia, who was wanted in several cases of murder, arson and kidnappings was shot dead, the sources said.
Soren, who was also the secretary of the Maoist-based People's Committee against Police Atrocities, was in the news earlier this year after he fell out with the political leadership of the outfit and spurned Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee's offer for talks.
SAF commando Ashish Tiwari was killed in the gunbattle, they said.
"We have found six bodies of the Maoists, including that of a woman cadre," Verma said.
Twelve weapons, including SLRs and INSAS rifles, were recovered from the spot.Earlier, on June 16 the joint forces had shot dead 12 Maoists, including three women cadre at Ranja forest under Salboni police station in the same district.