D. Chandra Bhaskar Rao
Fifty-four persons fall victim to early morning offensive
KONTA: Fifty-four persons, including 15 personnel of the Chhattisgarh Armed Force, were killed in an offensive by 300 to 350 CPI (Maoist) cadres on a police base camp in the Bastar region in the early hours of Thursday.
The remaining victims were tribal youths of the Salva Judum, designated as Special Police Officers (SPOs) and roped in to combat the naxalite menace. Eleven persons were injured.
The condition of four persons is said to be serious. The naxalites took away 13 self-loading rifles, three AK-47 rifles, nine .303 rifles and a two-inch mortar.
According to reports, only 11 of the 79 police personnel and SPOs at the camp in a forested area, at Ranipotili village of Bijapur district, managed to escape. The assailants used petrol bombs, detonators and rocket launchers. Half the police personnel were killed in their sleep; others were shot while trying to flee from the smoke-filled premises.
The attack, which lasted nearly two-and-a-half hours, was spearheaded by the "State Military Commission (Maoist)," consisting of about 100 armed naxalites. Members of the South Bastar divisional committee and the National park area committee of the CPI (Maoist) were reported to have participated. About 250 Maoist sympathisers, mainly the militant members of the Sangams, or village-level panels, surrounded the camp before storming it. They sealed the routes leading to the village by felling huge trees and slowed down the arrival of reinforcements.
The residents of the village did not come to the rescue of the police force. They reached the camp in the morning, when the area was strewn with mutilated bodies.
It was not immediately clear whether there were any casualties among the naxalites.
The injured persons were airlifted to Jagadalpur by helicopter. Chhattisgarh Home Minister Ramvichar Netham and Director-General of Police O.P. Rathod reached the camp along with senior officers from the State headquarters.
They talked to the survivors and promised to help the families of the police personnel and the SPOs killed.