Fifteen security personnel were killed in a Maoist ambush on Tuesday in Sukma district of south Chhattisgarh. One civilian, Vikram Nishad, also died in the crossfire, while three were injured.
Additional Director-General of Police Mukesh Gupta said 11 of the personnel who died belonged to the CRPF, while four were from the Chhattisgarh police.
The incident took place when a joint team of the CRPF and the police — about 50 personnel divided into two platoons — were moving from Tongpal village to Jeeram Ghati, the same area where a Maoist ambush had killed 27 people last May.
The team was engaged in an area domination exercise to sanitise the area for troop movements and also to provide security to road construction workers. About 100 Maoists surrounded them and opened fire.
Sources in the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) in Delhi said an alert had been sounded last month in view of the Lok Sabha elections.
An MHA official said prima facie there appeared to have been a complete violation of the standard operating procedure as the security personnel had been taking the same route for the past couple of days.
After the ambush, the Maoists planted explosives in a soldier’s body, Inspector-General of Bastar A.D. Gautam said. But they apparently did not plant any bomb at the ambush site, as they normally do, as no explosive was recovered till evening.
What has surprised many is Maoist mobilisation on one of the busiest highways of south Chhattisgarh. “The pace with which the Maoists assembled, ambushed and disappeared in an area where there are police and paramilitary camps is unbelievable,” an eyewitness said.
Inspector-General of CRPF in Chhattisgarh H.S. Sidhu said they had not released the names of the security personnel who died as they would like to inform the families first.
All CRPF men belonged to 80 Battalion.
Rebels have been active in the area for a long time. This is the second major attack on security forces in the past fortnight. On February 28, five security personnel were killed in a Maoist attack in Dantewada.
(With additional reporting by Devesh K. Pandey in New Delhi)