PATNA: Five Maoists, including one carrying a Rs 5-lakh bounty on his head, were gunned down in an encounter with police and CRPF Jawans in Jharkhand’s Latehar district on Wednesday. A Maoist area commander was arrested in Gumla district.

The encounter took place hours before Jharkhand Chief Minister Raghubar Das came on a visit to Betla wildlife sanctuary in Latehar district to hold a review meeting on Border Area Development plans and security-related issues, said officials. Police had been tipped off about the presence of some armed Maoists in the district, said sources.

“The encounter took place during a combing operation jointly carried out by the district police, Jharkhand Jaguar, CRPF and CoBRA battalions in the Badgaon forests on the border of Manika and Herhanj police station areas. The security forces asked the rebels to surrender, but they started firing, prompting retaliation,” said Latehar SP Prashant Anand.

Shravan Yadav, one of the slain Maoists, carried a bounty of Rs 5 lakh on his head. His associate, Shivlal Yadav, was also killed. Police were trying to ascertain the identity of the three others. Jharkhand’s IGP (operations) Ashish Batra said the dead Maoists were senior operatives in their outfit.

Three AK-47 rifles, one INSAS rifle, a .315-bore regular rifle and several rounds of bullets were among the arms and ammunition recovered from the encounter site, said officials.

The encounter, coming two weeks after the death of top Maoist leader Arvindjee, is considered a major success for security forces battling leftwing insurgents in the state. Arvindjee, who had leftwing extremism branch out across Bihar and Jharkhand, died of a cardiac arrest in his jungle hideout in the Budha Pahar hills spread in Garhwa and Latehar districts on March 21 night.

Meanwhile, police in Gumla district arrested Sanjay Mahto alias Sanjay Tiger alias Santoshjee, an area commander of the People’s Liberation Front of India (PLFI) outfit of the Maoists, and his associate Upendra Yadav on Tuesday night.

“A special team was deployed to make the arrests after a tip-off was received about the movement of Maoists in Ghaghra and Bansari areas. The duo was wanted in several cases of violence. Their arrest is a major achievement for police,” said Gumla SP Anshuman Kumar.