A group of an estimated 400 Naxals ambushed security personnel who were part of a large contingent deployed for a special operation in Chhattisgarh, leading to the killing of at least 22 personnel and injuries to 30 others.
They said the contingent of about 1,500 troops drawn from CRPF’s specialised jungle warfare unit CoBRA, some teams from its regular battalions, a unit of its Bastariya battalion, the Chhattisgarh Police affiliated District Reserve Guard (DRG) and others had launched a search and destroy operation along the border of Bijapur-Sukma district around noon after they got inputs of some Maoists presence in the area.
At least 400 Naxals, an officer said, led by the most wanted Maoist commander and leader of the so-called ‘People’s Liberation Guerrilla Army (PLGA) battalion no 1’ — Hidma – and his associate Sujatha are suspected to be behind the ambush that took place in an area that is a strong-hold of the ultras due to the difficult terrain, large tracts of forests and a smaller number of security forces camps.
The Maoists rained bullets from light machine guns (LMGs) and used low-intensity improvised explosive devices (IEDs) to mount the attack that went on till evening.
He said that the Maoists carried their dead, estimated to be about 10-12, on tractor trolleys.
The total approved strength of security forces personnel for the operation was 790 and the rest were taken as auxiliary and support elements for the long-haul operation, the sources said.
”Inputs were received that Naxals were undertaking their Tactical Counter Offensive Campaign (TCOC) campaign in the Jagargunda-Jongaguda-Tarrem axis, and hence security forces teams from six camps were deputed to intercept them.
”The Maoists drew the forces into an ambush with heavy gunfire soon after, and helicopter sorties were requisitioned to evacuate the injured personnel,” a senior security officer told PTI.
He said the Maoists encircled the security personnel from three sides and a heavy gun battle ensued in the jungles which are devoid of any foliage at present.
Amit Shah assures befitting reply
Union Home Minister Amit Shah assured the family members of soldiers killed in Chhattisgarh’s Bijapur Naxal attack that their sacrifices would not go in vain. Shah added that a search operation is underway for the missing soldiers.
“Both sides have suffered losses. Our jawans have lost their lives. I pay tributes to them. I want to assure their families that their sacrifice will not go in vain,” the Home Minister said.
“We will not tolerate this bloodshed and a befitting reply will be given at an appropriate time”, he added.
Out of the total 22 fatalities, the CRPF has lost eight men out of which seven are CoBRA commandos while one personnel are from the Bastariya battalion.
Officials said while maximum security forces personnel were killed due to bullet shots, one is suspected to have fainted and later died due to dehydration and other issues.
”The security forces personnel, especially CoBRA commandos fought very bravely and ensured that the Naxals could not prolong the ambush despite being at an advantage,” the officer said.
The security personnel took guard against large trees and kept firing till they ran out of ammunition, he added.