They had been taking the same route for the past couple of days, say Home Ministry officials

The team of security personnel ambushed by Maoists in Sukma district of Chhattisgarh ignored alerts sounded by the Union Home Ministry and also violated the standard operating procedure (SOP) laid down for movements in Naxal-hit areas.

“Preliminary enquiries have revealed that the security personnel were on their way to a road construction site when they were ambushed by over 100 armed Naxalites at 10.20 a.m. on Tuesday. During the half-an-hour action, there was a heavy exchange of fire,” said an MHA official, adding that prima facie, there appeared to be a complete violation of the SOP on the part of the security personnel.

The team had been taking the same route for the past couple of days. MHA officials suspect that their movements were being monitored by the Naxals.

The ambush could have been avoided had the team followed different routes every day for their destination. The members should have exercised more caution as the MHA had warned of possible Naxal strikes in the State in the run-up to the Lok Sabha elections.

About a month ago, the Ministry issued an advisory to the governments and police chiefs of Chhattisgarh, Bihar, Jharkhand, Odisha, West Bengal, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Uttar Pradesh, stating that the Naxals were planning to disrupt the general election in a bounce-back strategy following their failure to significantly impact the last Chhattisgarh Assembly elections.

The alert was based on the disclosures made by arrested/surrendered Naxal leaders and documents seized during a raid in the Jamui area of Bihar, which revealed that the Naxal cadre had been instructed to arrange for explosives to target vehicles used in election campaigns, and to abduct or eliminate political leaders and ambush security personnel.

In another advisory dated January 29, in view of the security arrangements for the Lok Sabha elections, the Ministry said: “In the past four months, anti-Naxal operations had not yielded results in terms of attrition among the Maoists”. “As per MHA records, in the 2004 Lok Sabha elections, a total of 109 Naxal-related violent incidents took place, claiming nine lives. It increased to 125 incidents and 24 deaths in the 2009 Lok Sabha elections…The worst-affected States during both elections were Bihar, Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand,” the report said, instructing the governments to take steps to curb Naxal activities.

Condemning the strike that claimed the lives of 11 Central Reserve Police Force and four local police personnel, besides a civilian, Union Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde said the Centre would take the Naxals head-on. “Every possible step will be taken to prevent the recurrence of such incidents,” he said.

This is the second time Naxals have carried out such an attack in Sukma district, barely 8 km from where they had targeted a Congress convoy in May last year and killed nearly 30 people, including the former State Minister, Mahendra Karma, and Chhattisgarh Congress chief Nand Kumar Patel.

More In: National | News