Toll rises to 22 as bodies of 17 more jawans recovered at Maoist encounter site in Chhattisgarh
Eighteen jawans were missing after five security personnel were killed and 30 others injured on Saturday in the fierce gun-battle with Naxals in a forest along the border between Bijapur and Sukma.
RAIPUR: The death toll of security forces personnel trapped in a deadly Maoist ambush has increased to 22 as 17 more bodies were recovered from the encounter site on Sunday at the Silger forested terrain along the Bijapur-Sukma border in south Chhattisgarh.
The Maoists also snatched away over 18 modern arms and ammunition from the deceased jawans. "We were able to recover the weapons of two to three personnel who were killed in the attacj," Kuldiep Singh, the CRPF DG said.
The deceased security personnel belonged to the CRPF, Chhattisgarh Special Task Force and the District Reserve Guards. One of the jawan is still missing after Saturday’s fierce gunfight.
On Friday night, an intelligence-based massive anti-Maoist operation was launched by separate joint parties of the forces, comprising of over 1500 jawans, along the Bijapur-Sukma border from three different directions in the conflict zone of Bastar.
The area of operation happens to be a stronghold of the outlawed CPI (Maoists) and the mission was to target the rebels' Battalion No-1 of the People's Liberation Guerrilla Army (PLGA) and its chief Hidma.
“Our aggressive anti-Maoist operations will continue with the renewed strategy after the ongoing rescue operation gets over. As per our information, the naxals too had suffered heavy casualties and our sources informed their bodies were carried on three tractors,” said Ashok Juneja, Director General (anti-Maoist operation).
The officials informed that the troopers were attacked with UBGL rocket launcher, light machine guns and other weapons by the Maoists while they were returning from the operations.
It took almost 24 hours for the reinforcements that were later pressed into search and rescue operation to reach the ground zero of the gun-battle near Jonaguda village, close to the Silger forested landscape along the Sukma-Bijapur border,
As many as 31 troopers sustained injuries in the Maoist ambush. “Seven seriously injured jawans were air-lifted to Raipur for immediate medical attention on Saturday while the remaining are admitted in the hospital at Bijapur”, the CRPF DG said.
“The incident shows the desperation of the Maoists who are now restricted to the small pockets in south Chhattisgarh region. Our fight against the rebels will continue till we achieve a Maoist-free Bastar,” Chhattisgarh chief minister Bhupesh Baghel asserted. The CM, who is spearheading the election campaign in Assam, will be returning Raipur on Sunday evening.
The Maoist Brigade remains most active in south Chhattisgarh, waging the battle against the forces and state for the past over three decades.
Union Home Minister Amit Shah on Sunday condoled the death of security personnel in the encounter, and said their valour will never be forgotten.
Shah also said the government will continue its fight against such enemies of peace and progress.
"I bow to the sacrifices of our brave security personnel martyred while fighting Maoists in Chhattisgarh. Nation will never forget their valour. My condolences are with their families. We will continue our fight against these enemies of peace & progress. May injured recover soon," he said in a tweet.