Ranchi: Some police accounts on Wednesday said almost 400 Maoists, including men and women, carried out the ambush in a forested area of Jharkhand that killed 11 security personnel and injured as many as 50 - the biggest such attack in the state in two years. However, police say the rebels were not able to loot any weapons.
The gunbattle, which lasted nearly five hours in Dhardhariya jungle near Senha in Lohardagga district Tuesday, is seen as an effort by the Maoists to re-assert their presence in Jharkhand.
"It was a trap by Maoists. The motive was to loot weapons but our men fought bravely and not a single weapon was looted," RK Mallik, the Jharkhand police spokesperson, said.
Eleven security personnel, eight of them from the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) and three from the state police, were killed. Six security personnel, including four CRPF men, were killed on the spot. Five others died during treatment.
The condition of seven injured is said to be serious.
According to police, there was information of the presence of a large number of Maoists in Dhardhariya waterfall. Around 100 security personnel comprising both state police and CRPF went for the search operation.
The security personnel found no Maoists and they stayed for sometime near the waterfall. While returning, the rebels detonated improvised explosive device (IED) and started indiscriminate firing.
The guerrillas used loudspeakers and asked the security personnel to surrender and throw away their weapons. But the security forces retaliated with gunfire.
The rebels triggered more than 10 IED blasts.
Police sources say around 400 Maoists were involved, including men and women, and they were led by Nakul Yadav of CPI-Maoist.
Around 300 security forces reached the spot three hours after the ambush began.
"If there had been delay in back support, then the casualty could be have been much more," said a police official.
More than 50 security personnel were injured. Around 30 were airlifted and admitted in Ranchi hospitals.
Police officials privately admit Maoists wanted to create terror by executing a Dantewada like incident in which 76 security personnel were killed in Chhattisgarh two years ago.
Tuesday`s incident caused the biggest casualty in two years, with 11 security personnel having been killed in a Maoist blast in Bokaro district in 2009.
Security forces in Jharkhand say they were succeeding in pushing Maoists on the backfoot in Saranda jungles, in the bordering jungles of Ranchi, Khuti and Jamshedpur. More than 30 guerrillas have been killed and more than 300 arrested since January 2010.