Security forces fought a long-drawn gun battle with heavily armed Maoists in a forest in Chhattisgarh's Dantewada area that ended on Wednesday evening, a top police official said, adding that the 70 policemen earlier reported missing were found to be safe.
"Our courageous jawans displayed bravery in the encounter that began around 11 a.m. and stretched till evening. Now the gun fight is over and all policemen are safe... they are on their way back but returning very slowly as there is a possibility of landmines or ambushes in their forested way after sunset," Director General of Police Vishwa Ranjan said.
The gunfight began when Maoists attacked a search team of the state police in a thickly forested area of Gumiapal, close to Kirandul, about 420 km south of capital Raipur, an iron ore mining facility of India's top iron ore producer NMDC Ltd.
A strong contingent of the District Force and Koya Commando comprising special police officers (SPOs) had gone into the forest around 11 a.m. after a tip-off about the presence of a unit headed by Communist Party of India-Maoist (CPI-Maoist) commander Ganesh Uike, state police spokesperson Rajesh Mishra told reporters.
"Our forces hit five rebels with bullets in the initial spell of the battle and the rebels climbed up to a hilltop to launch a counter-attack but they (Maoists) never managed to succeed," said Ranjan.
Ranjan, who was monitoring the gunfight from the police headquarters here, said some 100 policemen came under attack from the Maoists and a 75-member reinforcement sent later also engaged the rebels.
Inspector General of Police (Bastar Range) T.J. Longkumer said: "It is really a major relief... Maoists were never allowed during the six-hour battle to dominate us. It is good to know that all our jawans are safe."