As many as five innocent people were killed by security personnel during anti-Maoist operations in Odisha’s Kandhamal district on Friday night, police said on Saturday.

“Five civilians got killed in an exchange of fire,” said Inspector General of Police (Southern Range) Amitabh Thakur.

The victims include two men, two women and a five-year-old boy. At least two others were injured in the incident.

“The incident took place between Jakingia and Gumurmuha under Tumudibandha Block. Forces were sitting on ambush when they were engaged in exchange of fire from a hillock on the other side of the road. Naxals were at a higher position. This is when nine villagers in an auto-rickshaw came in between,” said Mr. Thakur.

Mr. Thakur further said search operation had been launched in the area.

“The details of the incident were awaited since the agitated villagers have gheraoed the team of security personnel,” said Kandhamal District Superintendent of Police Pinak Mishra.

The police team that was unable to return from the remote area where the incident occurred comprised 30 armed policemen.

“All the five persons who were killed were innocent people, and there was no exchange of fire at the spot,” claimed Rabi Das, human rights activist and journalist. “Police can’t shoot anyone like this,” he asked.

The persons who were in-charge of the operation, including the Kandhamal Superintendent of Police, should be placed under suspension and a judicial inquiry be ordered into the incident, Mr. Das demanded.

Meanwhile, the agitated villagers staged a protest dharna at the spot of the incident demanding adequate compensation to be paid to the next of kin of those killed in police firing.

Keywords: Odisha anti-Maoist operation, Kandhamal district