25 CRPF men killed in Sukma Naxalite attack
At least 25 CRPF personnel were killed and six wounded in Chhattisgarh's Sukma district on Monday, the deadliest attack by Naxalites targeting security forces this year.
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 25 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.
President Pranab Mukherjee and Prime Minister Narendra Modi condemned the attack.
"Strongly condemn the attack on CRPF personnel in Chhattisgarh; condolences to families of deceased and prayers for injured (sic)," the president said in a tweet.
Calling the attack a "cowardly and deplorable" act, the prime minister tweeted, "Attack on @crpfindia personnel in Chhattisgarh is cowardly & deplorable. We are monitoring the situation closely."
The incident occurred near Burkapal village within Chintagufa police station limits, Sukma Additional Superintendent of Police Jitendra Shukla said.
An injured jawan brought to a hospital here 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 assault rifles," the unidentified jawan said.
He said around 10-12 Naxalites must have got killed in the "befitting" retaliation by the CRPF contingent.
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.
The company commander, Raghubir Singh, an Inspector rank officer, was among those 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.
All the troops belonged to the 74th battalion of the force deployed in the area for anti-Maoist operations.
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.
Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Raman Singh said he was "extremely distressed" over the attack, as he cut short his Delhi visit and rushed to Raipur.