The National Investigation Agency, in coordination with the special investigation team of Chhattisgarh, will probe the killing of 15 security personnel and a civilian in the Maoist ambush on Tuesday in the Sukma district.

Preliminary enquiries have given ample indications that the Naxals have launched a Tactical Counter-Offensive Campaign (TCOC) that usually extends from three to four months and during which the outfit consolidates its stronghold, target security forces and carry out strikes with an aim to harvest weapons. Given that the TCOC would also coincide with the forthcoming elections, there has been a shift in the government’s approach towards security arrangements in the Naxal-hit areas: a departure from the one during the last State Assembly elections.

Consequently, an aggressive intelligence-based response by the armed forces is expected during the next 15 days. Extra force is also being mobilised to launch an effective area domination exercise.

At Jagdalpur on Wednesday, Union Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde, Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Raman Singh and other senior government functionaries paid homage to the martyred personnel. The Union Home Minister vowed to take revenge.

Sources said that the Maoists’ counter-offensive strategy is evident in the almost synchronised killings of three innocent civilians at Khammam in Andhra Pradesh, Gadchiroli in Maharashtra and Bijapur in Chhattisgarh a few days ago. “A similar modus operandi was followed in all the incidents. Throats of the victims were slit, the bodies dumped in the middle of the road and a trap laid for security personnel, with the Maoists waiting in ambush. In Bijapur, the security personnel were fired upon. However, a tactical approach averted any major incident,” said a senior MHA official.

Stating that no explosives were planted in any of the bodies of the martyred soldiers on Tuesday, the official said the State Government has been advised to come up with a better strategy to counter the Naxals in coordination with the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF). During a high-level meeting with senior State Government, State Police and CRPF officials, all possibilities were discussed on Wednesday. The plan is expected to be in place in a couple of days.

In view of the apprehensions of an escalation in violence in the region, the Chhattisgarh Government will also work in close coordination with its counterparts in Odisha, Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra.

About Tuesday’s attack, sources said there were inputs -- both from the State intelligence and the Intelligence Bureau, -- on suspected movements of the Naxal cadre in the same area. Operations were also carried out on that basis, but without success.