Zee Media Bureau
Raipur: Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde on Wednesday announced that the National Investigation Agency will probe into the attack on Tuesday in which 15 security men and a civilian were killed in a thickly-forested area of Chhattisgarh.
Earlier in the day, Shinde and Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Raman Singh paid homage to the security men who were killed when Maoists sprang the deadly ambush.
Condemning the attack, Shinde said the attack by the Maoists was on the CRPF team which was going to ensure access to road during the upcoming General Elections. There will be no change in election dates because of the attack, added Shinde. He further vowed to avenge this attack and promised detailed investigation into the security lapses.
The Home Minister though said there was intelligence yet it was not specific. He added that Maoists are scared that their importance is reducing.
"So many jawans have lost their lives in the attack, we will take revenge...the central and state forces are working together on it," Shinde said.
"We had given the earlier case where leaders were killed to the NIA and similarly this case will also be probed by the NIA," added Shinde, referring to the May 2013 Maoist attack in which 27 people, including senior Congress leaders, were massacred.
Addressing the media, Shinde said: "Naxal movement is gradually weakening and their numbers are dwindling while (Assembly) Elections were successfully held in Bastar region recently...they are now afraid".
Shinde arrived here early Wednesday and held a brief meeting with Raman Singh and State Home Minister Ramsevak Paikra over the incident and later went to Jagdalpur.
Tributes were paid to the martyrs at the police parade ground in Jagdalpur, the administrative headquarters of Bastar district this morning, senior police officers told a news agency.
Shinde, Raman Singh, Chhattisgarh Governor Shekhar Dutt, members of the state Cabinet paid their respect to the martyrs at the wreath-laying ceremony.
Immediately afterwards, Shinde and Singh left for his office, where the Union Home Minister would hold a meeting with the officials and review the situation.
Meanwhile, police officials in Sukma said a combing operation has been launched to trace the Naxals involved in yesterday`s attack.
Also, Singh has refused to tender his resignation in the wake of the attack, saying Naxalism poses a challenge to the nation and the Maoist attack could not be seen from a political point of view.
Over 200 guerrillas ambushed with indiscriminate fire and bomb attack a patrol of 50-55 men from the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) and state police on a remote stretch of a forested road in Gheeram Ghati in Sukma district, about 500 km south of Raipur in the Bastar region.
The Maoists then walked away with AK-47 assault rifles of the slain security personnel.
After the attack, Shinde had warned that the Centre will take the Naxals head.
“I condemn this attack on the CRPF and the police of Chhattisgarh. We are taking it very seriously and we will fight against the Naxal movement.”
"We will fight against Naxal (Maoist) movement," Shinde had said, adding it cannot be immediately said "whose failure" it was.
According to Additional Director General of Police Mukesh Gupta, the ambush site in Sukma district appeared to be near the place where Maoists massacred 27 people, including state Congress president Nand Kumar Patel, his son Dinesh, and former legislator Uday Mudaliyar, in May last year. Former central minister Vidya Charan Shukla too was injured in that attack and died of his injuries later.
There was confusion over Tuesday`s toll, with initial reports saying 20 security personnel were killed. The toll figure was later revised down to 15 security personnel and one civilian killed.
Gupta said even as the Maoist attack triggered a gun battle, the guerrillas also exploded bombs, causing more damage to the security patrol that was passing through the area.
President Pranab Mukherjee condemned the attack, saying such attacks "must be put down with a firm hand".
In a message to Chhattisgarh Governor Shekhar Dutt, Mukherjee, who noted he was "deeply saddened", said: "Terror and violence have no place in a civilised society. Such random attacks on security forces performing their duty must be put down with a firm hand."
It was not clear if any of the attackers, who were from the Communist Party of India-Maoist, were also killed in the incident.
The authorities rushed reinforcements to the area and helicopters were flown in.
A senior police official said that they had received inputs of the massing of Maoists.
"Some Naxals (Maoists) were from Odisha. Operations were launched from Sukma and Jagdalpur," the official told the media.
Normally, Maoist guerrillas carry out well-planned hit-and-run attacks on security forces, using the topography to their advantage.
The sprawling interior of Chattisgarh, which is heavily forested and populated by poor tribals, has been the stronghold of the Maoists since the 1980s.
The CPI-Maoist is known to run a virtual parallel administration in these areas.
(With IANS inputs)