The vicious Maoist attack on the Parivartan Yatra of the Congress in Chhattisgarh on Saturday was planned around May 15, sources said.
Two companies of Naxals from Darbha and East Bastar division committees planned the operation at their hideout near Puarti village of Sukma.
They used bombs and grenades and resorted to gunfire in the attack that killed 27 people, including senior Congress leaders and eight security officers.
Additional Director General (Anti-Naxal Operations) R K Vij said 37 others were injured in the ambush.
It is seen as a significant blow to the intelligence mechanism as the intelligence units and security forces deployed in the area did not have an inkling of the movement of such a large unit of armed men and women carrying sophisticated weapons.
A senior police official said there was no intelligence input on Maoist movement in Jeram area. “Such an attack cannot be planned in a day or two.
They had selected ground, planted bombs and fixed escape routes in advance. Intelligence agencies had no idea that they had been planning this for weeks.
Even an unmanned aerial vehicle deployed in Chhattisgarh to gather tech intelligence was not used as there was no ground intelligence,” he said.
Providing the details of the attack, an official said the Maoists appeared to have used villagers as mobile informers, who tipped them off about the convoy movement and the leaders in it.
The rally got over around 3 pm and leaders left the venue in a convoy of 45 cars at 3.10 pm. “They were ambushed half-an-hour later around 3.40 pm,” the official said.
“Maoists knew that security forces were deployed at Tongpal. So, they allowed the convoy to reach Jeram Ghati that provides them with an escape route.
They had bombed a truck to block the road and later triggered IED blast targeting the second vehicle in the convoy, before starting indiscriminate firing,” he said.
Leaders and activists surrendered when personnel security officers ran out of ammunition and were killed by approximately 300 heavily armed Naxals, including 30 from its women wing.
Several local leaders who tried to escape to Jeram Ghati jungles were shot dead. Mahendra Karma and Uday Mudaliyar were shot in cold blood after they identified themselves.
Two villagers who asked for a lift from Sukma to Raipur were also killed.Sources said state Congress chief Nand Kumar Patel and his son were shot in the head. “Four rounds were heard 10 minutes after they were kidnapped,” they said.
Both the bodies were recovered on Sunday morning. As Karma was on top of the Maoist hit-list, the Centre had extended ‘Z’ category security cover to him. However, the Naxals overpowered the commandos on duty.
A state police officer said the police in ‘Z’ security usually carry two magazines (ammunition storage). Only paramilitary commandos carry 10 magazines. The standard capacity of AK-47 magazine is 30 rounds.
“Since the present training demands initial response to be really heavy, one magazine is emptied immediately.
With just another magazine left, it is impossible to hold on for long,” he said.