'400 Maoists were armed with LMG'

400 Maoists were armed with LMG

New Delhi/ Raipur: A group of an estimated 400 Maoists, armed with LMGs, had ambushed security forces deployed for a special operation, killing at least 22 personnel and injuring 30 others, besides decamping with over a dozen sophisticated arms, officials said on Sunday.

The contingent of about 1,500 troops was drawn from CRPF'S specialised jungle warfare unit CoBRA, its regular battalions, a unit of its Bastariya battalion, the Chhattisgarh Police affiliated District Reserve Guard (DRG) and others. They had launched a search and destroy operation along the border of Bijapur-Sukma district after they got inputs of Maoists presence in the area.

A siege was laid at the crack of the dawn on Saturday following intelligence inputs that Naxals were undertaking their Tactical Counter Offensive Campaign (TCOC) campaign in the Jagargunda-Jongaguda-Tarrem axis, the officials said, adding the total strength of security personnel for the operation was 790 and the rest were taken as auxiliary and support elements for the long-haul operation. At least 400 Naxals suspected to be led by the most wanted Maoist commander and leader of the so-called 'People's Liberation Guerrilla Army (PLGA) battalion no 1-- Hidma-- and his associate Sujatha ambushed the forces in an area that is a strong-hold of the Maoists due to the difficult terrain, large tracts of forests and a smaller number of security forces camps, an officer said.

Out of the total 22 fatalities, the CRPF has lost eight men including seven CoBRA commandos while one jawan is from the Bastariya battalion and the rest are from DRG and Special Task Force. A CRPF Inspector is still missing, they said. "The Maoists drew the forces into an ambush with heavy gunfire and encircled the security personnel from three sides. A heavy gun-battle ensued in the jungles which are devoid of any foliage at present," a senior official told the news agency.

Bullets rained from light machine guns (LMGs) and the Naxals also used low-intensity improvised explosive devices (IEDs) to mount the attack that continued for several hours.

Helicopters, which were requisitioned to evacuate the injured personnel, could make the first landing only after 5 PM after the gunfire had ended.

The security personnel took guard against large trees and kept firing till they ran out of ammunition, he added.

At one location, he added, seven bodies of the troops were recovered and the tree trunks bore bullet shots, indicating that a fierce gun battle took place in the area.

About two dozen sophisticated assault weapons of the slain personnel are also stated to have been looted by the Naxals even as security officials said the search of the area is still on and details are being collected from the ground.

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