Raipur: Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh, who arrived in Chhattisgarh to take stock of the situation a day after the worst Naxal attack, on Tuesday said that the Naxal violence is a national problem and it will be dealt with sternly.
“Naxal violence is a national problem and both the Centre and state govt will jointly fight this menace,” Home Minister Rajnath Singh said.
Singh also announced compensation of Rs 38 lakh each to the kin of 14 CRPF jawans killed in Naxal ambush in Chhattisgarh.
Earlier during a review meeting here, the Home Minister asked security forces to continue operations against the banned ultras. Rajnath had said yesterday that he was waiting for a detailed report and would fly to Chhattisgarh on Tuesday.
Calling it an act of cowardice and a "dastardly act" of violence, the minister said in Lucknow, “The Naxals have carried out the attack by putting innocent villagers as human shields.”
Meanwhile, a day after the dastardly attack in Chhattisgarh's Sukma district, it emerged that the ultras had not just targeted the paramilitary troopers but also looted their weapons.
Sources also claimed that after the attack, the rebels took away a large number of weapons and equipments from the slain CRPF troopers which included one SLR, one machine gun, 10 AK-47 rifles, one VHF set, binoculars and jackets.
In a report sent to the Union Home Ministry, CRPF has expressed apprehension that Naxals may use the looted weapons to carry out another strike.
Intelligence agencies, too, are reported to have expressed similar apprehension.
Using human shields, Maoists yesterday unleashed a major attack killing 14 CRPF personnel, including two officers, and injuring 12 others. This was the second ambush on the force in 10 days in the same area in Naxal-infested Sukma district.
The attack took place when CRPF personnel were returning to their camp. This was the biggest Maoist strike on the paramilitary force in the state this year. On March 11, eleven CRPF men were among 15 people killed in a Maoist attack in Sukma district.
"As per latest reports, 14 CRPF men were killed and another 12 have been injured," Chattisgarh Chief Minister Raman Singh told reporters late last night.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi also condemned the attack.
"Words are not enough to condemn the brutal and inhuman attack by anti-national elements in Sukma," Modi tweeted
As per details available, a joint squad of CRPF, its elite battalion-CoBRA (Compact Battalion for Resolute Action) and district force was attacked by a large group of armed rebels in the dense forests in insurgency-hit South Bastar when they were returning to their camp after combing and area domination operations over several days in the Chintagufa region, about 450 km from here, a senior police official said.
The official said rebels opened indiscriminate firing on the security patrol in the forests between Dornapal and Chintalnar villages when they were cordoning off Kasalpada forest leaving 13 of them dead on the spot.
"Two officers - a Deputy Commandant and an Assistant Commandant - are among 14 CRPF men killed in the ambush," Chhattisgarh's Additional Director General of Police RK Vij told PTI. The Deputy Commandant and Assistant Commandant were identified as BS Verma and Rajesh Kapuriya.
The attack took place in the same base region of outlawed CPI (Maoist) where 76 troopers were massacred in 2010.
Subsequently, security personnel launched retaliatory attack and the encounter lasted for around several hours following which rebels fled to the core forest area, a senior police official said.
"As per the inputs, Naxals have also suffered causalities in the exchange of fire and at least eight cadres were gunned down," the official claimed, adding that, however, the bodies of killed ultras have not been recovered.
Soon after the incident, reinforcements were rushed to the spot.
The attack came at a time when a National Security Advisory Board (NSAB) delegation headed by former foreign secretary and chairman Shyam Saran is on a three-day visit to the state from Sunday. It visited Bastar and Dantewada yesterday and met senior officials there.
The CRPF personnel killed in the Naxal ambush have been identified as Sub-Inspector Hemraj, Head Constable Panchu Ram and Kuldeep Ponia, Constables Umang Pawar, Ram Mohan, PL Maji, Mukesh Kumar, Gauri Shankar, Manish Singh, Radhe Shyam, Saji Bhat and Deepak Kumar.
While strongly condemning the attack, Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Raman Singh called it a "cowardly act" of violence. "Rebels do not have courage to take on security forces face-to-face so they target them in a cowardly manner by laying ambush.
"It is a cowardly act. The Naxals were frustrated due to the actions of security force personnel. It (attack) was result of their frustration," he told PTI in Delhi. Singh, who was in the national capital, cut short his visit and rushed to Raipur late last night from here.
Expressing deep condolences over the death of security personnel, the chief minister of the BJP-ruled state said that Naxals were desperate to retaliate. "It is unfortunate that they attacked. We are determined to end the menace of naxalism from the state," he said.
Singh also briefed Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the Naxal ambush.
(With agency inputs)