Maoist rebels ambushed a paramilitary patrol in Sukma district of Chhattisgarh on Monday killing 13 Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) personnel, including an assistant commandant and a deputy commandant.
The Maoists used villagers as human shields and fired at the soldiers, who could not retaliate, reports said, adding the number of dead could be 13 to 15.
The 223 Battalion was conducting an area-domination exercise in Kasanpara village of the district in the south Bastar region when they encountered the Naxals at around 10.30 am. A CRPF officer said the engagement continued till 2 pm with casualties occurring on both sides.
The officer said the Naxals fired at the CRPF patrol party taking the aid of locals and villagers, the force had to fire with restraint. The Naxals also surrounded the CRPF jawans and fired at them from an elevated ground.
Most of the troops suffered bullet injuries and have been air-lifted to Jagdalpur and Raipur for treatment.
Union home minister Rajnath Singh condemned the "cowardly attack."
"The Naxals were using local villagers as shields, so our troops couldn't retaliate with full force as that would also have cost villagers' lives," reports quoted a senior CRPF officer as saying.
The Maoists struck deep in the forests at Sukma, 450 km from state capital Raipur, when the soldiers were returning to their base after searching for rebels.
The attack took place around nine km from Chintagufa, where 76 jawans were killed in 2008 in one of the worst Maoist attacks ever.
Earlier, on 21 November, Maoists had ambushed a patrol party and shot down an air force helicopter which was evacuating security personnel after a gun battle in the same area, injuring one personnel.