Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Tuesday expressed “shock and grief'' over the loss of lives of security personnel in the Maoist attack in Dantewada district of Chhattisgarh.

Dr. Singh spoke to Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram and sought details of the attack.

After a scheduled meeting of the National Security Council at his residence here, Dr. Singh had a discussion with Mr. Chidambaram and was provided details of the rescue operations and other measures.

Expressing shock over the “very high'' casualty of CRPF personnel in the attack, Mr. Chidambaram said something must have gone “drastically'' wrong in the CRPF-police joint operation.

“The casualty is very high and I am deeply shocked at the loss of lives. This shows the savage nature of the CPI(Maoist) and their brutality and the savagery they are capable of. Senior officials have already rushed to the site and we await reports from them,'' he said.

Mr. Chidambaram said the Chhattisgarh government and the CRPF together planned the operation. “They had mobilised both the State forces and the CRPF, but something must have gone drastically wrong. They seem to have walked into a camp or a trap set by Naxalites,” he said adding that he felt very sorry for those who lost their lives in the attack.

Union Home Secretary G. K. Pillai admitted that there was some failure.

“We should not have lost so many lives. Initial reports suggest that the Naxals used pressure bombs. A rescue helicopter too came under Naxal fire, but we have managed to bring back seven injured,'' he told reporters.

“We'll fight them”

Mr. Pillai reiterated the government's resolve to carry out the fight against Naxals. “We will give them a firmer reply. But, as of now, there is no need to use air power against them.'' Air services would be used only for rescue and reconnaissance purposes.

Sources in the internal security establishment said Tuesday's attack showed that Maoists were extremely capable in terms of improvising their tactics and planned their operation against the CRPF “very well'' after studying and understanding various aspects of deployment and movement of security personnel.

While expressing concern over easy availability of a large quantity of explosives to Naxalites, sources in the Home Ministry said the government was finalising stricter norms for regulating the movement, transportation and usage of explosives for mining and industrial purposes. “The new policy will be announced shortly but its implementation will be a huge task,'' a senior official said.