Raipur, April 4
Police recovered bullet-riddled bodies of 17 jawans in the jungles of Chattisgarh on Monday, raising to 22 the number of security personnel killed in a fierce gunbattle with Naxals the previous day—the biggest massacre in more than a year that also left 30 injured.
Police also recovered the bodies of three jawans killed in the encounter, an official said, adding that a search operation is on in the forest.
The dead include personnel from the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), its elite unit CoBRA (Commando Battalion for Resolute Action) and the District Reserve Guard (DRG), the official said. It was not clear how many were from which unit.
Eighteen jawans were missing after five security personnel were killed on Saturday in the fierce gun battle with Naxals in a forest along the border between Bijapur and Sukma districts in Chhattisgarh, police had said.
“On Sunday, bodies of 17 missing personnel were recovered during a search operation,” the official said. Some weapons of the security forces were missing, he added.
In a major joint offensive, separate joint teams of security forces, comprising over 2,000 personnel, launched an anti-Naxal operation from Bijapur and Sukma districts in the South Bastar forests, considered as a Maoist stronghold, on Friday night.
The operation was launched from five places – Tarrem, Usoor and Pamed (in Bijapur), and Minpa and Narsapuram (in Sukma), the official said.
When the patrolling team dispatched from Tarrem was advancing through the forest near Jonaguda, around 500 km from the state capital Raipur, it was ambushed by cadres of PLGA (Peoples’ Liberation Guerilla Army) battalion of Maoists and a gun-battle ensued, he said.
Chhattisgarh’s Deputy Inspector General (anti-Naxal operation) O P Pal on Saturday said some jawans, both from the police and paramilitary, were reported missing after the encounter, adding efforts were on to trace them.
Pal had claimed that the Maoists suffered a huge loss in the gunfight. Only the body of a woman Naxal could be recovered from the spot amid heavy exchange of fire.
The attack comes close on the heels of the March 23 incident when five DRG personnel were killed as the Maoists blew up a bus carrying the security personnel with an IED in Narayanpur district of the state.
On March 21 last year, 17 security personnel were killed in a Naxal ambush in Minpa area of Sukma district.
On April 9, 2019, BJP MLA Bhima Mandavi and four security personnel were killed after Naxals blew up their vehicle with an IED in Dantewada district.
On April 24, 2017, 25 CRPF personnel were killed in a Naxal ambush in Burkapal area of Sukma district.
In March 2017, 12 CRPF jawans were killed in a Maoist attack in Sukma district.
In November 2016, two CRPF jawans were injured in a pressure bomb blast triggered by Naxals in the dense forest of Sukma district.
In March 2016, a powerful landmine blast struck a truck filled with para-military soldiers in Raipur district, killing seven policemen.
As many as 14 of the 27 districts in Chhattisgarh are affected by Left Wing Extremism violence.
Union Home Minister Amit Shah on Sunday spoke to Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel and took stock of the situation following the incident, officials said.
Shah also directed CRPF’s Director General Kuldiep Singh to visit Chhattisgarh to assess the situation.
The Union home minister condoled the death of the security personnel in the encounter and said their valour will never be forgotten. The government will continue its fight against the enemies of peace and progress, he added.
President Ram Nath Kovind expressed deep anguish over the death of the security personnel.
“The killing of the security personnel while battling Maoist insurgency in Chhattisgarh is a matter of deep anguish.
My condolences to the bereaved families. The nation shares their pain and will never forget this sacrifice,” he tweeted.
Congress leaders Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra also expressed grief over the death of the security personnel.
“Sadly, Prime Minister and Home Minister Amit Shah are too busy electioneering to take on the menace of Naxalism. TV proclamations ain’t enough. We need to put a decisive strategy and blueprint,” Congress chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala tweeted.