The Maoist attack in Bihar on Monday that killed 10 CRPF jawans has not only left a trail of bodies and dismembered limbs, but also stumped the authorities in the state.
Security forces on Tuesday were busy scouring for evidence on the hilly terrain close to the Aurangabad-Gaya border to piece together the chain of events that resulted in the heavy casualties.
The area where the encounter took place is close to the Lutma hill dividing Bihar and Jharkhand, and 3 km south of Amas town on the Grand Trunk Road.
Police said the CRPF team had forayed deep into the jungles around Saundaha to track down Maoists who had reportedly gathered atop a hill.
The first team set out around 9 am and waded some 15 km deep into the jungles. Another team was to join them as reinforcement. It was then that the Maoists struck.
According to PK Thakur, the state police chief, the rebels hiding in the hills first opened fire at a group of 25 CRPF personnel as they were walking up the hill.
“Around 11 am we got first information about the Maoists engaging security personnel in a gun battle. We sent a helicopter, but it was unable to evacuate our people as the Maoists were firing heavily on the jawans,” Gaya district magistrate Ravi Kumar said.
Sometime between 11am and 6pm — the duration of the gun battle — the Maoists detonated IEDs, inflicting heavy casualties.
“The Maoists had planted several IEDs along a narrow passage, which the CRPF jawans were trying to negotiate on foot,” Thakur told HT. “They had specific information about the Maoists activity but were perhaps caught on the wrong foot due to the treacherous terrain.”
The gunfight also left five men of the Commando Battalion for Resolute Action (CoBRA) injured. Three with serious injuries were airlifted to Patna Medical College and Hospital. Bodies of the three Maoists killed in the gunfight have been recovered, Thakur added.
According to the police, the region is typical guerrilla country, where security forces either use motorcycles or patrol on foot to avoid landmines laid by Maoists. They also avoid concrete roads since the Maoists are known to plant bombs for detonating at their convenience.
Hills and dense forests separate Bihar from Jharkhand and offer a safe hiding place to Maoists who are well-acquainted with the topography.
Police said the area has been categorised as “disturbed” since the 1980s, especially after the advent of the Maoist Communist Centre (MCC), which merged with the Peoples War Group in 2004 to form the CPI-Maoist.
The Maoists have used the hills to make ingress and exit from Jharkhand after targeting security forces and their assets and police operations are mainly restricted to day time, due to lack of night vision devices and the fear of landmines.