Chhattisgarh Naxal attack: 22 security personnel killed; 31 injured
The death toll in an encounter between security forces and Naxals in Chhattisgarh's Bijapur climbed to 22 on Sunday. The whereabouts of one other soldier remain unknown. The encounter took place on Saturday when Naxals reportedly ambushed a joint team of security forces on an anti-insurgency operation. At least nine Naxals were also killed in the three-hour-long encounter. Here are more details.
Chhattisgarh Director General of Police DM Awasthi and Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) DG Kuldiep Singh confirmed that the dead bodies of 22 personnel had been recovered. As of Saturday, officials had only confirmed the martyrdom of five personnel. 31 personnel sustained injuries and were brought to the Bijapur hospital, India Today reported. At least seven of them were referred to a Raipur hospital.
On Friday night, separate joint teams of security forces with over 2,000 personnel launched the anti-insurgency operation from Bijapur and Sukma districts in the South Bastar forests. The region is considered a Maoist stronghold. Personnel from the CRPF, its elite unit CoBRA (Commando Battalion for Resolute Action), the District Reserve Guard (DRG), and the Special Task Force (STF) were involved, PTI reported.
On Saturday, when the patrolling team dispatched from Tarrem was crossing a forest near Jonaguda, the PLGA (Peoples' Liberation Guerilla Army) battalion of Maoists ambushed them, according to PTI. A gun battle followed that continued for three hours. Sources told India Today that the Naxals used light-weight machine guns (LMGs) and even rocket launchers during the attack.
Over the past week, security forces in Chhattisgarh have been receiving information about Madvi Hidma, the top member of the banned CPI (Maoist). Hidma is linked to several major attacks including the 2013 Jhiram Ghati killings. According to India Today, 200-300 Naxals were camping in Bijapur. They were reportedly planning to plant an IED in Bijapur.
Union Home Minister Amit Shah spoke to Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel to take stock of the situation. Shah has directed the CRPF DG to visit the site and review the situation. He also extended his condolences to those martyred and hoped for the recovery of those injured. President Ram Nath Kovind said he will never forget the sacrifice of the martyred personnel.
Last evening, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had tweeted, "My thoughts are with the families of those martyred while fighting Maoists in Chhattisgarh. The sacrifices of the brave martyrs will never be forgotten. May the injured recover at the earliest."