Raipur: A gang of nearly 300 Naxals attacked a CRPF battalion guarding a road construction site in Sukma, Chhatisgarh on Monday afternoon, killing at least 25 jawans, including their commander, and injuring several more.
Injured CRPF jawan Sher Mohammed told television journalists that Naxals first sent villagers to sniff out their location and then came armed for the bloody attack. Mohammed said the 150-member CRPF team fired in retaliation at Naxals and claimed many of theirs were dead too.
The Maoists fired from the top of hills at the paramilitary soldiers who were guarding workers building roads in a forested area of Sukma district, police officer Jitendra Shukla told AP. He said the injured were taken by helicopter to the hospital.
The jawans were from the 74th battalion of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), including an Inspector-rank officer.
Reinforcement parties from the nearest CRPF camp were also rushed in, the officer added.
Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Raman Singh cut short his visit to New Delhi and rushed to Raipur. He has called an emergency meeting. Minister of State, Home, Hansraj Ahir will also visit Raipur later on Monday.
“Attack on CRPF personnel in Chhattisgarh is cowardly & deplorable. We are monitoring the situation closely,” Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted.
“We are proud of the valour of our @crpfindia personnel. The sacrifice of the martyrs will not go in vain. Condolences to their families,” he added.
Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh paid tributes to the martyred jawans and offered condolences to their families. “Extremely pained to know about killing of CRPF personnel in Sukma,” he added.
Calling the Naxals attack a “classic case of mindless killing”, Union Minister M Venkaiah Naidu said, “Deeply pained, their sacrifice should not go in vain…no place for such things in democracy”.
“Sincere condolences to families of CRPF personnel martyred in the attack in Sukma. We salute sacrifice and courage of our bravehearts,” Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi said.
The encounter took place around 12:25 pm in the Burkapal-Chintagufa area of the worst Maoist violence-affected district in south Bastar area of the state.
"The Naxals fired at a patrolling party of the CRPF near Burkapal village leaving six personnel injured," Special Director General (anti-Naxal operations) of Chhattisgarh Police, D M Awasthi told PTI.
Twelve jawans of the CRPF were killed in the same district early this year in a deadly Naxal ambush.
The government has said these rebels are India's biggest internal security threat. According to the Home Ministry, they operate in 20 of 29 states and are most active in Chhattisgarh, Orissa, Bihar, Jharkhand and Maharashtra.