New Delhi [India], April 18 (ANI): BJP leader Shehzad Poonawalla slammed the Congress for allegedly claiming the Naxalites who were killed in an encounter by security forces in Chhattisgarh as "martyrs" and raised questions over the action against the extremists.

Addressing a press conference at the BJP headquarters here, Poonawalla played a video clip of Congress leader Supriya Shrinate describing the Naxals as martyrs and expressing sympathy for them.

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Referring to this, he said, "When we have seen a very important operation that has taken place in Chhattisgarh, where 29 Naxalites were eliminated by the security personnel and this was indeed a big achievement for the security personnel, instead of coming out and welcoming the security forces, their action, today, the Congress party, has done what is expected of them but is unthinkable. They come out and claim that the Naxalites are essentially martyrs and they raise question marks on the bravery of the security personnel," the BJP leader said.

"Supriya Shrinate described the Naxals as martyrs and expressed sympathy for them. She said that a thorough probe should be conducted into this (operation)," Poonawalla added.

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Meanwhile, casting aspersions on the Chhattisgarh encounter, the Congress claimed on Wednesday that during the previous BJP regime, several innocent villagers had been labelled Naxals and killed.

Former chief minister Bhupesh Baghel, who is also the Congress candidate for the Lok Sabha elections, raised doubts over the operation claiming that there had been several 'fake encounters' under the erstwhile BJP regime, adding that innocent villagers were tagged as Naxals and arrested.

He claimed that the police have been threatening villagers as well, adding that during his tenure as CM, too, several Naxals had been killed or had surrendered.

Echoing the refrain, the Congress's state chief Deepak Baij said the government should clarify beyond any reasonable doubt that those killed were all Naxals and not villagers too.

Meanwhile, on Wednesday, Bastar Inspector General of Police (IG) P Sundarraj said 71 Naxals have been gunned down to date since January, adding that the fight against the Left-wing ultras was at a 'decisive stage'.

Addressing a press conference here, Sundarraj said Tuesday's encounter in the Binagunda-Koragutta jungles of the Kanker district was one of the most successful operations recorded in the offensive against the Naxals in Chhattisgarh.

"An encounter broke out between security forces and Naxalites at 2 pm, lasting about 4 hours on Tuesday. A joint team of DRG and BSF personnel cordoned off the area and engaged the Naxalites. As many as 29 bodies of Naxals were recovered, of which 15 were women. A huge cache of arms and ammunition were also recovered from the spot," he said.

He informed further that prime facie, one of the dead Naxals was identified as feared commander Shankar while a woman cadre was identified as Lalita.

"As many as 71 Naxals have been gunned down to date since January, this year. The operation marks one of the biggest successes recorded in our continuing crackdown on Naxalites. The fighting against Naxalites has now reached a decisive stage. Our endeavour, going forward, will be to keep going after the Naxals with full force. The erstwhile Naxal strongholds are taking on a new identity and so are the people inhabiting these areas," IG Sundarraja said. (ANI)

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