news Tuesday, April 07, 2015 - 05:30
(Last Updated - 12:00 pm IST) In a major incident, the Andhra Pradesh police shot and killed 20 people, suspected to be illegal wood cutters and red-sandalwood smugglers in Seschalam forest near Tirupati in the Chittoor district of Andhra Pradhesh. The incident occurred in the early hours of Tuesday after more than 100 wood cutters, armed with sickles and axes, threw stones at the police. In retaliation, the Red Sanders Anti-Smuggling Task Force (RSASTF) reportedly opened fire killing some of the smugglers. The District Forest officer of Tirupati told The News Minute that the casualty numbers are almost 20. The shooting occurred in two places within a radius of one km in Chandragiri mandal of Chittoor and saw nine people die near Srivari Mettu and 11 die at Srinivasa Mangapuram. Ten policemen were also reportedly injured. Deputy Inspector General of Police Kanta Rao told reporters that over 100 smugglers and labourers helped them to attack policemen, forcing them to open fire in self-defence. The raid was based on intelligence that the task force about a large group of woodcutters that had entered the area Most of the smugglers were natives of Tamil Nadu. Many of them were labourers, who were not aware of the dangers involved.     20 red sanders #smugglers killed in a police encounter in Seshachalam forest in #Chittoor district of #AndhraPradesh pic.twitter.com/qjn1q4I7pJ — dinesh akula (@dineshakula) April 7, 2015 A hunt is on for the rest of the smugglers who have escaped, in a bid to arrest them. The RSASTF has jurisdiction throughout AP for enforcement and investigation of all matters involving illegal activities pertaining to Red Sanders. Its goal is to curb Red Sanders smuggling mafia operating from the state. Classified as endangered in International Union for Conservation of Nature's Red List, red sanders fetches Rs.25 lakh per tonne in the international market. It is mainly used in aphrodisiac drugs and for making musical instruments and furniture. In Andhra Pradesh, red sanders grows mainly in the Seshachalam hill ranges spread across Kadapa, Chittoor and Kurnool districts in the Rayalaseema region and parts of Nellore district. The area under red sanders is estimated to be 4.67 lakh hectares.   The forest in recent months has witnessed bloody clashes between red sanders smugglers and police. Similar incidents have occurred in the past with three smugglers being shot in May 2014 and two in August.

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