A "shortcut" decision to board anambulance by the leader of a CRPF party in Chhattisgarh's Naxal hotbed of 'Darbha valley' on Saturday led to the killing of five of its personnel and the civilian driver.
Terming the incident a result of "blatant violation" of Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) in the anti-Maoist operations grid, senior officials said boarding a vehicle by troops on an tactical task is a clear "no" and akin to inviting a fatal ambush like the one that occured in the noon on Saturday.
"It is a very sad incident that the troops were killed in such a cowardly act by Naxals. But this is a case of clear violation of SOPs. The troops should not have taken the shortcut of hopping on an ambulance," official sources said.
CRPF inspector general (operations) in Chhattisgarh HS Sidhu told PTI that they are still investigating the incident but the troops boarding the ambulance has surprised them.
Sources said the team leader of the CRPF group that boarded the '108-Sanjeevani' ambulance, inspector MK Rai, flagged down the white-coloured vehicle about 5kms before the Darbha police station in Sukma district as apparently they thought that they would not be identified inside the van.
The troops had just moved a kilometre when a blast carried out by Naxals near 'Kamnar' tossed the medical van killing six of the total nine occupants.
Rai was killed along with four of his junior colleagues while the driver of the vehicle also succumbed few minutes after the fatal explosion carried out by deploying Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs).
Sources said the troops had gone to sanitise a route for the movement of an in-coming convoy of polling parties and when the group saw the ambulance passing by they boarded it with an intent to quickly reach the Darbha police station.
"They probably thought that the ambulance will give them cover but they forgot they were in their green combat uniforms which could have given out their identity," a senior official said.
A Court of Inquiry has now been initiated into the incident.
The remaining slain Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) personnel have been identified as Assistant?Sub-Inspector Kanti Bhai, Head Constable's Sitaram and M?Umesh, Constable Dinesh and driver Vasu Sethiya.
There are standing instructions for all security forces in the Naxal affected areas that they should never board a vehicle, either a civilian or armoured, when out in duty in these areas as this increases the risk of them getting trapped in a blast.
Once hit by the blast, there have been instances when the injured personnel were killed by hiding Maoists before they recover from the impact of the explosion.