In a fresh Naxalite attack ahead of India's upcoming general elections, Maoists insurgents in Chattisgarh today ambushed a security team in broad daylight, killing 15 security forces personnel – including 11 from the Central Reserve Police Force – and one civilian.
The attack was a chilling reminder of the 2010 killing of 76 security men in the same area in the same Sukma district of Chhattisgarh, which is one of the worst Naxalite-affected areas in the country.
The location of the ambush was also close to the area in the Bastar region where the top Congress leadership of the state was wiped out by Maoists in May 2013, when they killed 25 people (See: VC Shukla, injured in Maoist attack, dies).
The latest attack occurred at 10.15 this morning at Jeerum Nullah, 400 km from the state capital of Raipur.
Clearly, the insurgent's planning was more professional than that of the security forces. A contingent of 44 joint security forces personnel was enfiladed and struck by heavy fire and landmine blasts while it was out for an operational task in the jungles of Tongapal.
The area isclose to the Dantewada and Jeerum Ghati axis, notorious for Naxal violence.
Union home minister Sushilkumar Shinde refused to comment about the attack, saying that he is still awaiting information on the tragedy.
"I don't know the details yet. I will comment only after I get all the details," the clueless and gauche Congress loyalist said while leaving his North Block office in New Delhi.
Additional Director General of Police (Naxal operations) R K Vij told newspersons in Raipur earlier that the full picture of the extent of the attack on security personnel is yet to be ascertained.
"The Maoist attack on a team of CRPF and State Reserve Police force took place when they were on regular duty and were inspecting the roads. The epicenter of the attack was barely five kilometres away from the Tongpa-Jheerum area," Vij added
Chattisgarh Deputy Inspector of Police (SIB) Dipanshu Kabra said more bluntly, ''Eleven CRPF personnel and four state policemen were killed. Inspector Subhash of CRPF was leading the squad and he has also been killed.'' A civilian was also killed in the attack and three people have been injured, he added.
An assistant commandant rank officer of the CRPF is also believed to among the victims, according to reports.
Chhattisgarh's Additional Director-General of Police (Intelligence) Mukesh Gupta said the joint team was attacked by a large group of Naxals numbering close to 100.
A large manhunt has been launched to nab the attackers, who escaped in the thick jungle. It was not immediately known if the Naxals had suffered any casualties.
Police sources said the deaths of the security personnel were caused by bullets rather than the explosives.
Chattisgarh chief minister Raman Singh has cancelled his earlier schedule and convened an emergency meeting of security officials in Raipur.
''The area is heavily mined and hence reinforcements are treading cautiously,'' CRPF Inspector-General (Operations) in Delhi Zulfiquar Hasan told PTI.
The squad that included 30 CRPF and 14 State police personnel was conducting a road-opening task when Naxals triggered improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and started firing.
Two IAF helicopters have been sent in from Jagdalpur and Raipur to the ambush area with reinforcements drawn from the CoBRA battalion and the CRPF.
According to initial information, the joint security squad was deployed near the Takbada village for a route sanitising duty for smooth movement of a convoy of the security forces.
The State police suspects that a group of Naxals may have crossed into Chattisgarh from Odisha to perpetrate the deadly attack.
According to police officials, Naxals have looted at least 15 automatic weapons belonging to the jawans.