As many as 15 people were battling for life in Chhattisgarh's Dantewada district on Tuesday, a day after Maoist guerrillas blew up a crowded passenger bus and killed at least 35 special police officers (SPOs) and civilians on a state highway.
"So far we have recovered 31 bodies, this is a mix of SPOs and civilians. Since several bodies were found in pieces, it's difficult to say the exact break up SPOs and civilians but I put the death toll of SPOs at around 10," Dantewada Superintendent of Police Amresh Mishra said over the phone.
"The death toll may rise further as I have information that up to five dead civilian bodies were taken away by local people and their relatives," he said.
"The 15 injured people included 14 SPOs who are very critical and have been admitted to different hospitals in Dantewada, but 25 other civilians who received minor injuries returned to their villages without informing the police. We are trying to find out their exact location so we can reach out to them medically," Mishra added.
Chhattisgarh's Director General of Police Vishwa Ranjan added that SPOs killed in the blast belonged to a unit named Koya Commando, known for their bravery and heroism in the anti-Maoist operation.
"For several months Maoists were looking for an opportunity to hit Koya Commando jawans as they were proving to be lethal," Ranjan said.
He said roughly 3,500 SPOs in the state are local youths.
"We will keep recruiting SPOs in the state, mainly in the 40,000 sq km restive Bastar region. SPOs have always proved to be handy and I believe that their help is essential to dismantle the Maoist terror infrastructure in Bastar's five districts - Dantewada, Bijapur, Bastar, Narayanpur and Kanker," Ranjan said.