Seven policemen were killed in an improvised explosive device (IED) blast triggered by Maoists targeting a police vehicle in Dantewada district of south Chhattisgarh on Sunday.
The incident took place near Cholnar village, around 10 km from Kirandul town, when the policemen were travelling in a white SUV.
D.M. Awasthi, Special Director-General of Police, Anti-Naxal Operations (ANO) unit of the Chhattisgarh police, said the vehicle belonged to the police.
“The incident took place around 12 p.m. It was a government vehicle attached to a police station there. The jawans had escorted a truck carrying construction material for the Kirandul-Aranpur road. The blast took place when they were returning to Kirandul. All the deceased were posted at the Kirandul station,” he told The Hindu .
The weapons of the deceased policemen were missing after the blast, and the police suspect that the Maoists might have taken them away.
“Six weapons were missing, but one AK-47 has been recovered now. We expect to find some more weapons. Maoist cadres, possibly at the militia level, were present near the site of the blast. But there was no firing after the blast,” he added.
The deceased were identified as head constable Ramkumar Yadav, constable Tikeshwar Dhruv and auxiliary constable Salik Ram Sinha of the Dantewada district police and head constable Vikram Yadav and constables Rajesh Kumar Singh, Ravinath Patel and Arjun Rajbhar of the 16th battalion of the Chhattisgarh Armed Force.
Five out of the seven policemen died on the spot, while one died on the way to hospital.
Arjun Rajbhar was evacuated to Raipur for treatment. However, he succumbed to his injuries in the evening.
Asked if there was any lapse on the part of the policemen, Mr. Awasthi admitted that they should not have gone in the SUV.
“It’s a catch-22 situation in the Maoist insurgency-hit areas. You have to take the forces’ protection to construct a road and our personnel do get complacent when they travel in the same area frequently. Seven people should not have gone for patrol. They should have used motorcycles and a minimum of 20 to 25 men should have gone, which would have prevented such an incident. Because there were not enough personnel, officials may have sent the available strength for the patrol,” Mr. Awasthi added.