Zee Media Bureau/Deepak Nagpal
Raipur: Naxals carried out a major attack in Chhattisgarh`s Sukma district on Tuesday, killing at least 15 security personnel and one civilian.
Of the 15 jawans killed, 11 were from the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) and four from the district police. The toll was less than the 20 earlier reported.
"11 CRPF personnel and four state policemen were killed. Inspector Subhash of CRPF was leading the squad and he has also been killed," DIG (SIB) of Chhattisgarh police Dipanshu Kabra told reporters. A civilian, who was driving the police vehicle, was also killed in the attack, he said, adding three people have been injured.
An assistant commandant rank officer of CRPF is also believed to be among the victims, sources said.
The Naxals, who were 200 in number, walked away with the arms and ammunition of the slain policemen after the encounter that lasted nearly three hours.
The attack took place at 10:15 am in a dense forest at `Jeerum Nullah`, 400 km from here, when a team of 48 joint security forces personnel was ambushed.
Naxals opened heavy fire and triggered landmine blasts while the team was out for an operational task in the jungles of Tongapal, close to the Dantewada and `Jeerum Ghati` axis, notorious for Naxal violence.
Kabra had said that “officials on the spot say some Naxals may also have been killed in firing”, but the same could not be confirmed.
A manhunt has been launched to nab the attackers who escaped in the thick jungles.
The attack at a road construction site came exactly a month before the Lok Sabha elections in Chhattisgarh.
Terming it as an act of cowardice, Chief Minister Raman Singh said that around 200 Naxals had carried out the attack.
"The injured have been shifted to hospital via helicopter to Raipur, medical assistance is being provided to them.... The incident took place where roads are under construction, especially in Sukma district," he said.
Singh had earlier called an emergency meeting of the Chief Secretary, ACS Home, DGP and other high ranking officers to asses the situation.
Chhattisgarh Police ADG (Intelligence) Mukesh Gupta informed that a joint team of CRPF and state police was attacked by a large group of Naxals.
Following the attack, an encounter broke out between the security team and Maoists. Reinforcements were also sent to the spot, which was reported to be `heavily mined`.
"The area is heavily mined and hence reinforcements are treading cautiously," CRPF Inspector General (Operations) in Delhi Zulfiquar Hasan had told PTI during the day.
Sources said two IAF helicopters were also sent in from Jagdalpur and Raipur to the ambush area with reinforcements drawn from the CoBRA battalion and CRPF.
Police sources said the deaths of the security men were caused due to bullet injuries.
Reacting to the attack, Union Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde said, “We will take the Maoists head on.”
The jawans of CRPF belonged to its 80th battalion which is deployed for anti-Naxal operations in the state.
The attack, which is believed to have been carried out by the trio of Ramanna-Surinder-Deva of Dharbaghati wing of Dhandkaryana Zonal Committee, was carried out barely five km from the area where virtually the top Congress leadership of the state was wiped out by Maoists in May last year.
Also, the incident took place in the same area where Naxalites had killed 76 police personnel in April 2010.
The attack comes despite warnings sent by Intelligence Bureau on February 17 asking the Naxal-hit states to be extra-cautious as banned CPI-Maoists had announced "Chunao Bashiskar" (Poll boycott) programme and may intensify attacks on security personnel.
(With PTI inputs)