In a brazen daytime attack, Maoists on Tuesday ambushed a security team killing 15 personnel including 11 of the CRPF and also a civilian in a chilling reminder of the 2010 massacre of 76 securitymen in the same area in the worst-hit Sukma district of Chhattisgarh.
The attack at 10.15am at 'Jeerum Nullah', 400km from Raipur, came when a contingent of 44 joint security forces personnel was trapped and struck by heavy fire and landmine blasts while it was out for an operational task in the jungles of Tongapal, close to the Dantewada and 'Jeerum Ghati' axis, notorious for Naxal violence.
The Maoist attack on Tuesday sparked outrage among political parties and leaders as President Pranab Mukherjee led a chorus of demand that such actions should be put down with a firm hand.
"Such random attacks on security forces performing their duty must be put down with a firm hand," the President said in a message to state governor Shekhar Dutt.
Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi on Tuesday took to Twitter to condemn the attack.
"We stand shoulder to shoulder with people of Chhattisgarh. Anti-national forces can't be allowed to derail the state's development journey," Modi tweeted.
"We salute the brave souls who sacrificed their lives for the nation. Condolences to their families. Our prayers with the injured. Brutal killing of security personnel in Chhattisgarh is despicable. No words can be enough to condemn such acts," Modi further tweeted.
Congress leader Rahul Gandhi also termed the attack as a "senseless act of violence".
Condemning the ambush, Gandhi offered his condolences to the families of the security men who lost their lives and said his thoughts and prayers were with them in this hour of terrible grief.
Union home minister Sushilkumar Shinde said: "I condemn this attack on the CRPF and the police of Chhattisgarh. This has happened for the second time in the same area. We have taken this very seriously."
"We will fight against this Maoist movement. The DG and CRPF were on tour. We have asked them to reach the spot immediately. As of now, I cannot comment about anyone?s failure," he added.
After the incident, Congress and BJP were involved in a war of words, with the ruling party at the Centre rejecting contentions that such incidents do occur ahead of elections.
"It is completely unacceptable to suggest that such things can happen during elections. Writ of the government should run strong and any failure is unacceptable," Congress spokesman Abhishek Singhvi told reporters in New Delhi.
He was responding to the BJP leader Ravi Shankar Prasad's remarks terming the Naxal attack as an attempt to "influence" the Lok Sabha polls.
Describing Naxalism as a national problem, Prasad had said earlier in the day, "...Naxals carry out such strikes before elections. Before Assembly elections, they carried out a similar attack to influence the polls but they failed. Again they have carried out an attack when Lok Sabha polls have been announced. But they will fail this time too."
Madhya Pradesh chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan strongly condemned the attack.
"Deeply saddened by the news of the martyrdom of police jawans in a cowardly attack by Maoists," Chouhan said in a tweet on the issue.