Hyderabad: At least 20 sandalwood smugglers have been gunned down in an encounter with police in Seshachalam forest near Tirupati in Chittor district of Andhra Pradesh on the wee hours of Tuesday.
The Special Task Force members, who were engaged in combing operations in Srinivasa Mangapuram, Srivarimettu and Eethagunta areas of Chandragiri Mandal abutting the Tirumala hills since Monday, found more than 100 woodcutters engaged in the task of felling trees.
The policemen asked them to surrender, but the woodcutters hailing from Tiruvannamalai and Salem districts of Tamil Nadu rained stones and hurled sickles at them, forcing the STF to open fire in self-defence.
At the end of the operation lasting for several hours, 20 persons were found dead. While confirming the number of deaths, Deputy Inspector General of Police (Special Task Force) M. Kantha Rao sought more time to verify the criminal antecedents of the dead.