Ten security personnel returning from a counter-insurgency operation and a civilian driver were killed when the vehicle they were travelling in was blown up by Maoists, in Chhattisgarh’s Dantewada on Wednesday afternoon, according to State police.
“Acting on a tip-off about Maoist presence in the area, an operation was conducted by the Deputy Inspector General. As they were returning to the Dantewada headquarters, the team was targeted by the Maoists,” said Inspector General of Police (Bastar Range) Sundarraj P., adding that the incident took place on the Aranpur road. Dantewada headquarters is in the Bastar region, nearly 350 km from the State capital of Raipur.
“Reinforcements of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) and District Reserve Guard (DRG) have been sent to the spot. Search operations are underway and senior officials are there. The process of removing the bodies of the slain personnel is underway,” he added.
Local media reports indicate that the incident took place between 1:00 p.m. and 1:30 p.m. Visuals from the spot showed that the explosion was so powerful that it led to the formation of a crater on the road.
A senior government official said that the attack took place around 1.5 km from a police station and a CRPF security camp. “After blowing up the vehicle with an IED [improvised explosive device], the Maoists exchanged fire with other policemen who were part of the convoy. There were two other vehicles following the affected vehicle. The Maoists managed to flee,” the official said.
The official added that no weapons were looted by the Maoists. “It is not clear when the IED was laid, either at the time of construction or later. It was packed with over 50 kg of explosives,” the official explained.
It also remains unclear why a civilian was driving the vehicle full of policemen, or whether the vehicle was a private civilian one, and if so, under what circumstances they boarded it.
2023 casualties double
The deceased jawans were members of the District Reserve Guard, a locally-raised force designed to carry out anti-Maoist operations. They have been identified as Joga Sothi, Munnaram Kadti, Santosh Tamo, Dulgo Mandavi, Lakhmu Markam, Joga Kawasi, Hariram Mandavi, Rajuram Kartam, Jairam Podiyam and Jagdish Kawasi. The civilian driver was Dhaniram Yadav.
With this incident, the number of security forces killed by Maoists in Chhattisgarh in the first four months this year has touched at least 17, almost twice the nine casualties reported in 2022. Security experts say that between February and June, Maoists conduct a tactical counter-offensive campaign, during which they target security forces, before the onset of the monsoon makes attacks difficult in the Bastar region.
Condolences, support offered
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel, Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge, and others expressed their condolences to the families of those killed in the attack.
“Strongly condemn the attack on the Chhattisgarh police in Dantewada. I pay my tributes to the brave personnel we lost in the attack. Their sacrifice will always be remembered. My condolences to the bereaved families,” Mr. Modi tweeted.
After the attack, Home Minister Amit Shah said that he spoke to Chattisgarh Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel and assured all possible assistance to the State government.