In a brazen daytime attack, Naxals on Tuesday ambushed a security team killing 15 personnel including 11 of the CRPF and also a civilian in a chilling reminder of the 2010 massacre of 76 security personnel in the same area in the worst-hit Sukma district of Chhattisgarh.
The attack at 10.15 a.m. at Jeerum Nullah, 400 km from Raipur, came when a contingent of 44 joint security forces personnel was trapped and struck by heavy fire and landmine blasts while it was out for an operational task in the jungles of Tongapal, close to the Dantewada and Jeerum Ghati axis, notorious for Naxal violence.
The location of the major ambush by a large group of Naxals is close to the Jeeram Ghati area in Sukma district in the Bastar region where the top Congress leadership of the State was wiped out by Maoists in May 2013 when they killed 25 people.
“11 CRPF personnel and four state policemen were killed. Inspector Subhash of CRPF was leading the squad and he has also been killed,” DIG (SIB) of Chattisgarh police Dipanshu Kabra told reporters. A civilian was also killed in the attack, he said, adding three people have been injured.
An assistant commandant rank officer of CRPF is also believed to among the victims, sources said.
Chhattisgarh’s Additional Director-General of Police (Intelligence) Mukesh Gupta said the joint team was attacked by a large group of Naxals numbering close to 100.
A large manhunt has been launched to nab the attackers who escaped in the thick jungles. It was not immediately known if the Naxals had suffered any casualties.
Police sources said the deaths of the securitymen were caused due to bullet injuries.
Chattisgarh Chief Minister Raman Singh has cancelled his scheduled programme and convened an emergency meeting of security officials in Raipur.
“The area is heavily mined and hence reinforcements are treading cautiously,” CRPF Inspector-General (Operations) in Delhi Zulfiquar Hasan told PTI.
The incident took place in the same area where Naxals had killed 76 police personnel in April 2010, the biggest blow to security forces till this time in anti-Naxal operations.
In New Delhi, Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde said details are still awaited.
The squad that included 30 CRPF and 14 State police personnel was conducting a road opening task when Naxals triggered landmine blasts and firing.
Sources said two IAF helicopters have been sent in from Jagdalpur and Raipur to the ambush area with reinforcements drawn from the CoBRA battalion and CRPF.
According to initial information, the joint security squad was deployed near the Takbada village for a route sanitising duty for smooth movement of a convoy of the security forces.
The jawans of CRPF belong to its 80th battalion which is deployed for anti-Naxal operations in the State.
The State police is suspecting that a group of Naxals who may have crossed into Chattisgarh from Odisha could be behind the deadly attack.
According to police officials, Naxals have looted at least 15 automatic weapons belonging to the jawans.
Police also suspect that ultras might have booby-trapped body of a slain policeman, which is lying near the Nullah. A team of explosive experts has been dispatched to the spot to defuse the bomb.
Officials further said that security personnel were on alert after local unit gathered intelligence on the presence of naxals from the state and neighbouring Odisha in the area.
State Governor Shekhar Dutt has condemned the incident, terming it “a cruel and ghastly act”.
At least 20 security personnel are feared killed in a Naxal ambush in Tongpal village, close to the Darbha Ghat area, of Sukma district in south Chhattisgarh on Tuesday.
Chhattisgarh Additional Director General (Intelligence) Mukesh Gupta told media that 15 of the 20 personnel are from Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) and five are from Sukma District police. “While 44 personnel, have come out of the remote forest areas of Tongpal, rest are killed,” said Mr. Gupta. 30 of the 44 personnel are from CRPF.
Several platoons of the joint forces of CRPF and Chhattisgarh police were engaged in a road opening exercise in the area, the police said. The Naxalites used pressure bombs to stop the platoon which was leading the team. Then the rebels surrounded the forces and started firing on them.
On May 25, 2013, more than 30 people including senior Congress leaders were killed by the Maoists in Darbha Ghat area. During the last fortnight this is the second major attack by the Maoists in tribal Bastar region. On Feb 28, five security personnel were killed in a Maoist attack. Senior police officials have rushed to the spot.
Mentionable that, more than 500 security personnel and civilians are killed in North India by Maoist in last 15 months; even so Union of India is yet not deployed army against Maoist while the same Union of India deployed army in Jammu Kashmir and North East India for counter insurgency operation. This raises a big question of Union of India’s accountability upon counter insurgency operation handling.