RAIPUR: Twelve Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) personnel were killed and two others injured in an encounter with the outlawed CPI (Maoists) after a road opening party (ROP) was ambushed at Kottacheru in strive-torn Sukma district, about 400 km south of the capital Raipur, on Saturday.
Around 120 personnel of 219th battalion of CRPF in Sukma, south Chhattisgarh, left in the morning on a search and ROP to offer protection for road construction works underway along the Ingiram-Bhejji route. The Maoists, after triggering a blast, resorted to indiscriminate firing on the troops killing 12 of them on the spot, police said.
The rebels also took away 10 weapons and two radio-sets from the dead CRPF personnel. Barely a couple of kilometres from their base camps, the forces were ambushed by the rebels. “It appears the Maoists had earmarked safe spots to carry out an ambush and the personnel were caught off-guard. The rebels opened indiscriminate firing. We lost 12 jawans and two others were injured. The incident took place some 2.5 km away from the base camp”, Rakesh Kumar Jha, assistant commandant (CRPF) based in Sukma told the New Indian Express.
The CRPF personnel killed in the ambush were H V Bhatt from Uttarakhand, Narendra Kumar Singh from Bihar, Mangesh Pandey from Maharashtra, Rampal Singh Yadav from Uttar Pradesh, Gorakh Nath from Uttar Pradesh, Nandkumar Atram from Maharashtra, Satish Chandra Verma from Uttar Pradesh, K Shankar from Tamil Nadu, Jagjeet Singh from Punjab, Suresh Kumar from Himachal Pradesh, V R Mande from Maharashtra and Jagdish Prasad from Rajasthan.
The forces retaliated but there was no report of any Maoist casualty in the encounter that continued for an hour and a half. Prime Minister Narendra Modi expressed his grief over the killing of the CRPF personnel, tweeting, “Tributes to the martyrs and condolences to their families.”
Union home minister Rajnath Singh reached Raipur late Saturday evening and paid homage to the jawans killed in the attack. Singh also visited the hospital to meet the two injured jawans who were air-lifted from Sukma to Raipur for immediate medical attention.
Reinforcements were rushed to the area to assist the forces and combing operations intensified following one of the worst attacks in three years in the restive Bastar zone. Maoists had killed 15 CRPF men on March 11 in 2014 in Sukma, which is seen as the epicentre of left-wing extremists in south Bastar.
Chief Minister Raman Singh condemned the attack and called it a “cowardly act”. “The naxalites are frightened and frustrated with the development initiatives and are on the back-foot now”, the CM said.
Talking to media persons, special Director General (anti-Maoist operations) D M Awasthi affirmed that the forces will launch counter operations.