GADCHIROLI (MAHARASHTRA): After a lull of over three years, Maoists struck again Tuesday killing 12 Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) troopers and injuring 28 others in a remote-triggered landmine blast in this Maharashtra district, police said.
The incident occurred just before noon when 40 troopers were travelling in a CRPF bus from Phustola to Gatta village in Dhanora, around 50 km from the Gadchiroli district headquarters.
They were bound for a special security operation in a Maoist stronghold area of the district when the bus passed over a remote-controlled improvised explosive device (IED) that blew up the vehicle, the official said.
"As per the latest confirmed reports, 12 stormtroopers have been martyred while 28 more have been injured," Home Minister R.R. Patil informed the Maharashtra assembly Tuesday evening.
The Maharashtra Police, anti-Maoist operations squad, CRPF and other security agencies immediately swung into action and helped evacuate the injured troopers by two helicopters to Gadchiroli.
The serious victims were taken by air to hospitals in Nagpur, 175 km from here, the official said.
Top police and civil officials reached the scene of the incident while the local security authorities launched combing operations in the thick forests to nab the militants.
CRPF chief K. Vijaykumar, who was touring the state Tuesday, spoke to Union Home Secretary R.K. Singh in New Delhi and briefed him on the incident.
By late afternoon, at least 60 people were detained from the surrounding areas for questioning.
In Mumbai, Patil, who is also guardian minister for Gadchiroli, personally monitored the developments and directed relief and rescue measures.
Patil will visit Gadchiroli Wednesday to take stock of the situation and implement counter measures to deal with the Maoist threats.
Maharashtra Governor K. Sankaranarayanan condemned the incident, terming it as "the height of cruelty" and paid homage to the troopers.
This is the third major attack on security forces since May 2009 in the region.
On May 21, 2009, Maoists ambushed a police team in the forests near Murum village in Dhanora, killing 16 people, including five women constables.
Later that year, on Oct 8, as many as 17 policemen were killed near Laheri in Bhamragad sub-district after a fierce gunbattle lasting more than three hours in the deep jungles.
Some of the victims killed included commandos from the elite C-60 unit of the anti-Maoist operations squad.
Last year, May 19 (2011), Maoists carried out attacks on two police patrols, killing four personnel in Bejurphata village, in the Bhamragad forests.