New Delhi: Following charges that security forces killed 17 Chattisgarh villagers branding them as Maoists last week, Union Home Minister P Chidambaram Wednesday said he was "deeply sorry" if any innocent person was killed.
"The CRPF (Central Reserve Police Force) has nothing to hide and fear. Its director general has clarified the incident," Chidambaram told reporters here.
"If a young boy or girl or a woman, who was not involved with the CPI-Maoists, has been killed, I`m deeply sorry."
However, he said, this could be established only after an official probe in the incident was over.
Defending the June 29 firefight in Bijapur village in Chattisgarh in which 17 people were killed, including a 15-year-old boy, the minister said a CRPF party was fired upon in the jungle at 11.30 pm and had to return fire as a standard operating procedure.
He said six jawans of the central force were injured in the encounter and one of them was critical while the jaw of another one was blown away.
"In retaliatory fire, around 16 or 17 people were killed," said Chidambaram adding the "youngest of them was 15-years-old and most were adults."
He said the security forces had been able to identify at least three-four of those killed as having previous criminal record.
Reacting to media reports that a probe by the Chattisgarh Congress had called the incident a "fake" encounter and that Union Minister for Tribal Affairs V. Kishore Chandra Deo was "upset" over it, the home minister said he shared the anguish of his cabinet colleague.
"I share his (Deo`s) anguish at the loss of life," he said.