A large group of Maoist rebels ambushed a team of security forces in Chhattisgarh's Sukma district, leaving 11 CRPF jawans, four district policemen and a civilian dead.
The attack, which comes less than a fortnight after Maoists killed five policemen in an ambush in nearby Dantewada, has raised fears that the Maoists are now regrouping to mount more attacks after having laid low for three months.
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Tuesday's incident took place between Jhiram Ghati (Bastar) and Tongpal (Sukma) a little after 10am. The area is around 450km south of state capital Raipur and the site was some 15km from the spot where the rebels carried out an audacious attack on a Congress convoy on May 25 last year.
An injured man is taken for treatment after Maoists attacked a CRPF search party near Tongpal in Sukma district of Chhattisgarh. PTI Photo
A chunk of state Cong leadership was eliminated in the attack that killed 27 people.
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A team of jawans from the CRPF's 80th Battalion and Sukma police force were accompanying construction workers heading to repair a road in the area.
Injured police constable Pannilal Thakur told HT in Bastar that they were on their way to provide security to road construction workers, when they saw a truck and an excavator being set ablaze by Maoists.
"The rebels fired at us from the nearby forested area, killing one of our colleagues and injuring three others. As we charged toward them through the forest, we realised we had walked into an ambush. A woman Maoist fired at me," Thakur said.
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Additional director general of police (anti-Maoist operation) RK Vij said about 100 Maoist guerrillas were involved in the attack.
"The encounter, in which 45 personnel from CRPF and the state police were trapped, continued for a couple of hours," the officer said.
Though the security forces retaliated the attack, there is no report of any casualty of the rebels. The armed guerillas also looted weapons---six AK-47, seven INSAS rifles, three grenade launchers--- before fleeing into the nearby jungles.
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Three seriously injured jawans were air-lifted to Raipur for immediate medical attention.
Senior police officials including state DGP and ADGP left for the spot on chopper, a state police headquarter source here said.
Chief minister Raman Singh has cut short his Delhi visit and was scheduled to return to Raipur in the evening on Tuesday.
Security personnel near the bodies of their colleagues after Maoists attacked a joint search party of CRPF and the police near Tongpal in Sukma district of Chhattisgarh. PTI Photo
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He convened a high level meeting of top officials at the CM house at 7.45 pm, the principal secretary to the CM N Baijendra Kumar told HT.
On February 28, armed guerrillas killed five Chhattisgarh policemen, including a sub-inspector near Shyamgiri hilly terrain in Dantewada.
Bastar remains the epicentre of the left-wing extremists and home minister Sushilkumar Shinde on Tuesday vowed to take the rebels "head on".
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