At least 26 CRPF personnel were killed and six wounded in Chhattisgarh's Sukma district today, the deadliest attack by naxalites targeting security forces this year.
When and where did the attack take place?
The naxalites mounted the assault around 12:25 PM in Kalapathar area of south Bastar region, one of the worst-hit by Left-wing extremism in the country. The area is close to the Chintagufa-Burkapal-Bheji axis, the hotbed of naxal violence which has seen a number of such attacks in the past resulting in high casualties.
"As per the latest report, we have lost 26 men. We are still to account for all the personnel and a search is on. About 7-8 boys are still missing. The last word on the encounter will come once the entire area has been searched and all troops contacted," a senior CRPF officer said, adding the paramilitary patrol was about 99 personnel-strong.
Jawans injured in CRPF-Naxals encounter in Chhattisgarh's Sukma shifted to hospital in Raipur. pic.twitter.com/6x5zZKANVy— ANI (@ANI_news) April 24, 2017
While 11 bodies were recovered first, 12 were found during combing operations. A jawan succumbed to injuries while being evacuated by air, the officer added.
An injured jawan, brought to a hospital, said the CRPF patrol was attacked by around 300 Maoist guerrillas. "The naxals first sent villagers to check our position... I also saw some women naxals. They were all wearing black uniforms and had sophisticated weapons like the AK series assualt rifles," he said.
Sourav Malik, another injured personnel said the patrol came under sudden fire from Maoist rebels.
CRPF officials said the ambush set up by the naxals was as deadly as the one on March 11 in Bheji area of the same district where 12 personnel lost their lives.
It is understood that the company commander, an Inspector rank officer leading the contingent which was ambushed today, was also killed.
The officer said the CRPF patrol, like in the Bheji incident, was sanitising the area where a road is being laid between Burkapal and Jagargunda, when the assault happened. The naxals were believed to have also looted over a dozen weapons of the slain personnel, the officer said.
All the troops belonged to the 74th battalion of the force depolyed in the area for anti-Maoist operations.
Leaders and politicians took to Twitter to condemn the ghastly attack
Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Raman Singh said he was "extremely distressed" over the attack, as he cut short his Delhi visit and rushed to Raipur.
सुकमा में हुए नक्सल हमले के बारे में जानकर मन अत्यंत व्यथित है। मैं दिल्ली दौरा निरस्त कर बैठक के लिए छत्तीसगढ़ वापस आ रहा हूँ।— Dr Raman Singh (@drramansingh) April 24, 2017
PM Modi termed the attack a "cowardly and deplorable" act, and asserted that the sacrifices of the martyrs will not go in vain. He wished speedy recovery to those injured in today's attack.
We are proud of the valour of our @crpfindia personnel. The sacrifice of the martyrs will not go in vain. Condolences to their families.— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) April 24, 2017
Attack on @crpfindia personnel in Chhattisgarh is cowardly & deplorable. We are monitoring the situation closely.— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) April 24, 2017
Deeply pained over the loss of our Bravehearts at Sukma. These sacrifices shall not be in vain. 1/— M Venkaiah Naidu (@MVenkaiahNaidu) April 24, 2017
Extremely pained to know about the killing of CRPF personnel in Sukma. My tributes to the martyrs and condolences to their families. 1/2— Rajnath Singh (@rajnathsingh) April 24, 2017
PM & our govt's stand is very clear. The sacrifice of the martyrs will not go in vain. I extend my condolences to their families. https://t.co/zcrzZ1OBK6— Kiren Rijiju (@KirenRijiju) April 24, 2017
Reinforcements, including CoBRA commandos of the CRPF and its other units, have been rushed to the scene from the nearest camp of the paramilitary force, the officer added.
The incident comes at a time when the country's largest paramilitary force is without a full-time chief after K Durga Prasad retired on February 28.