At least 22 security personnel were killed and around 31 injured in a shoot-out with Naxals along the border of Sukma and Bijapur districts in Chhattisgarh on Saturday, 3 April – the worst such Naxal attack in four years.
Bodies of 17 security personnel have so far been recovered from Bijapur. Out of the total 22 fatalities, eight were from the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), eight from the District Reserve Guard (DRG) and six from the Special Task Force (STF), PTI reported.
Twenty-three of the injured personnel were admitted to a Bijapur hospital, and the remaining were taken to a Raipur hospital, according to ANI. Out of the 31 injured personnel, 16 belong to the CRPF.
HOW DID IT HAPPEN?
A contingent of 1,500 troops had launched a search and destroy operation along the border of Bijapur and Sukma on Saturday, after getting inputs about Naxal presence in the area. There were also inputs about the presence of wanted Naxal leader Madvi Hidma.
"Inputs were received that Naxals were carrying out their Tactical Counter Offensive Campaign (TCOC) in the Jagargunda-Jongaguda-Tarrem axis, and hence security teams from six camps were deputed to intercept them,” an officer told PTI.
“The Maoists drew the forces into an ambush with heavy gunfire soon after, and helicopter sorties were requisitioned to evacuate the injured personnel,” a senior security officer told PTI.
The contingent was ambushed by a group of around 400 Maoists, possibly led by wanted leader Hidma of the People’s Liberation Guerrilla Army (PLGA).
Here are some on-ground visuals from the attack site:
An officer said that the Naxals used light machine guns (LMGs) and improvised explosive devices (IEDs) for the attack, which went on for three hours, PTI reported.
The Maoists carried their dead, estimated to be around 10 to 12. About two dozen assault weapons were also taken from the killed personnel.
WHO IS NAXAL LEADER HIDMA?
Hidma is a tribal from Puvarti village of Sukma district. He joined the Naxalite movement in the 1990s and is now suspected to be around 40-years-old.
He heads the People’s Liberation Guerrilla army’s (PLGa) battalion number 1 and is a member of the Maoists Dandakaranya Special Zonal committee (DKSZ), IndiaToday reported. Known for his fierce and deadly ambushes, around 180 to 250 Naxal soldiers are led by him.
A charge sheet was also filed against him in the Bheem Mandavi murder case by the National Investigation Agency.
Director General of CRPF Kuldiep Singh asserted that there was no intelligence or operational failure. He added that around 25 to 30 Naxals were also killed and taken back on tractor trolleys. However, the exact number is yet to be ascertained.
He added, “Had it been some intelligence failure, forces would have not gone for the operation.” Singh said he will be meeting the injured personnel tomorrow.
PM, OTHER LEADERS EXPRESS CONDOLENCES
Prime Minister Narendra Modi said the sacrifices of the security personnel will never be forgotten.
Sonia Gandhi also paid homage to the killed security personnel and said in a statement, “The entire country bows before the martyrdom of 22 jawans in the gruesome Naxal attack in Bijapur, Chhattisgarh. I pay homage to these jawans who have given their lives, and heartfelt condolences to their families. The nation owes an enormous debt of gratitude to them.”
Amit Shah cut short his trip in Assam and returned to Delhi. He said in a tweet:
Home Minister Shah held a high-level security meeting with Union Home Secretary Ajay Bhalla, Intelligence Bureau Director Arvind Kumar and senior officials of the home ministry and the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) to review the situation.
As per reports, out of the total 22 fatalities, the CRPF has lost eight men out of which seven are CoBRA commandos while one personnel is from the Bastariya battalion.
At present, the operation is being monitored by two Inspector General (IG) rank officers of the state police and the Central Reserve Police Force from Jagdalpur in Bastar. Search operations for the missing security personnel is still on.
(With inputs from ANI and PTI.)