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Sweltering conditions, a rough terrain and unavailability of drinkable water were some of the challenges faced by the security personnel during their encounter with Maoists in Chhattisgarh’s Kanker district, a police officer said on Wednesday. But their toil and struggle did not go to waste as 29 Maoists were killed in the operation that took place near Binagunda village under Chhotebethiya police station limits, he said.

Around 200 personnel of the state police’s District Reserve Guard and the Border Security Force were involved in the operation that took place on Tuesday.

Besides the weather, the terrain made the operation difficult, said Pakhanjur police Station House Officer (SHO) Laxman Kewat, one of the officers who led the forces during the encounter.

Talking to news agency PTI, Mr Kewat said, “Hot weather conditions and dehydration posed a huge challenge. Climbing a hill carrying weapons and rucksacks in such weather was a tough task, but the security personnel were very motivated. They cordoned off the whole area, following which the operation was successful.

“Another risk was getting exposed, as a dry forest in summer provides good visibility. This is the reason Maoists observe their Tactical Counter Offensive Campaign between March and June and step up their activities….it is due to the good visibility in the otherwise dense forests during this period,” he said.

When they crossed the Kotri river in Abhujmaad, a Maoist stronghold, they were aware that the operation could not be called a success until they returned safely.

Therefore, after the guns fell silent, the security personnel wasted no time and returned with the bodies of dead Maoists, not giving their colleagues time to retaliate in large numbers or set up ambushes, the official said.

A total of 22 weapons including two Insas rifles, one AK-47 rifle and a Self-Loading Rifle (SLR) were recovered from the encounter site, he said.

According to Mr Kewat, who has been involved in multiple encounters, the death count of Maoists could be higher.

The operation was launched based on inputs about the presence of Shankar Rao, Lalita and Rupi of the North Bastar Division Committee of the Maoists who were apparently planning to create disruptions during the Lok Sabha elections, he said.

Polling in the Bastar Lok Sabha constituency will take place on April 19 in the first phase. The Kanker constituency, part of the larger Bastar region, will vote in the second phase on April 26.