Mumbai: Fifteen C-60 commandos and a driver were killed by Maoists in an improvised explosive device (IED) explosion in Gadchiroli on Wednesday.
The blast was carried out in protest of the gunning down of 40 Maoists in an operation on April 22 last year, the police said. Maoists had been observing a week-long protest in the region to mark the first anniversary of the incident.
The attack came close on the heels of the arson of at least 35 vehicles in Kurkheda in the intervening night while the administration was in the process of making arrangements for Maharashtra Day celebrations.
The torched vehicles belonged to Amar Infrastructures Ltd, which is constructing the Purada-Yerkad sector on National Highway 136 near Dadapur village.
The patrol team of the specialised anti-Naxal combat force was targeted in Samburkheda on Dadapur Road in Korchi taluka of Gadchiroli district.
Preliminary reports stated that the explosion was so powerful that the patrol vehicles were flung into the air and were found in a mangled condition.
The Naxal-infested neighbourhood had witnessed attack in April when the district had gone to the polls.
“The commandos were on patrol duty in two private vehicles and were headed to Purada village when they were targeted. The IED went off near an open drain killing the personnel, all of whom were attached with the Kurkheda police station,” said an officer of the Gadchiroli police.
Reinforcements were soon rushed to the spot and the injured policemen were shifted to Gadchiroli’s civil hospital.
Shailesh Balkawade, superintendent of police, Gadchiroli, said, “A group of Maoists gathered around 3.30 am at Dadapur where the construction of a national highway has been going on for the past few months. They torched vehicles that were parked on the road using kerosene and diesel after which they escaped into the forest.”