At least 25 CRPF personnel were killed and six wounded in Chhattisgarh's Sukma district Monday, the deadliest attack by Maoists targeting security forces this year.
According to CRPF sources, 25 jawans were killed in a fierce encounter between the CRPF's 74 Battalion and Maoists. The CRPF battalion was providing security to road construction work near Chintagufa in Sukma district of Chhattisgarh.
The Maoists 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 violence which has seen a number of such attacks in the past resulting in high casualties.
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," the unidentified jawan said.
He said around 10 to 12 rebels were killed in he "befitting" retaliation by the CRPF contingent. Sourav Malik, another personnel who was injured in the attack, said the patrol came under sudden fire from Maoist rebels.
The company commander, Raghubir Singh, an Inspector rank officer, was among those killed. The rebels were believed to have also looted over a dozen weapons of the slain personnel, the officer said.
The bodies of the personnel killed in the ambush have been taken to CRPF camp at Burkapal. The injured jawans have been evacuated by helicopter and shifted to hospitals in Jagdalpur and Raipur.
This was the second such incident in Sukma within a span of one month. The last Maoist attack took place on 11 March, where 12 CRPF jawans were killed.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his tweet has said that the sacrifice of the martyrs will not go in vain.
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
Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh said he was saddened by the attack and was sending Minister of State Hansraj Ahir to Chhattisgarh to take stock of the situation.
"Extremely pained to know about the killing of CRPF personnel in Sukma. My tributes to the martyrs and condolences to their families."
"Spoke to MoS Home Shri Hansraj Ahir about the attack in Sukma. Shri Ahir is going to Chhattisgarh to take stock of the situation," he tweeted.
Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Raman Singh said he was "extremely distressed" over the attack, as he cut short his Delhi visit and rushed to Raipur.
Another MoS in the home ministry Kiren Rijiju said the incident was a "set back and a big tragedy".
Union Home Secretary Rajiv Mehrishi also reviewed the situation in the aftermath of the attack at his North Block office.
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 28 February.
75 CRPF personnel and a Chhattisgarh police official were killed in the deadliest naxal attack in adjoining Dantewada district on 6 April, 2010.
With inputs from PTI
Editor's note: This copy has been updated to reflect the corrected figure of CRPF troops that were killed by Maoists. CRPF sources initally pegged the number at 26.
Updated Date: Apr 25, 2017 14:36 PM