Three jawans of the Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB) were killed and another seriously injured in a landmine explosion set off by Maoists in Chhattisgarh on Friday.
The Maoists targeted the SSB even as it was pulling out of the state. A mini truck the jawans were in came in contact with the landmine planted by Maoists on National Highway-16 near Geedam on the border of Dantewada and Jagdalpur districts, about 400 km south of Raipur.
Dantewada superintendent of police Ankit Garg said, "The rebels opened fire after the blast and the forces on other vehicles retaliated. The rebels fled into the jungle."
According to the police, the martyred jawans are Dharmesh Nath (Assam), Dilip Chandrella (Bihar) and Vivek Kumar (Kerala). The injured jawan, Pravin Kumar, was airlifted to Raipur and admitted to a private hospital.
Two battalions of the SSB had been deployed in the state in 2008, primarily to protect camps of the anti-Maoist militia Salwa Judum.
The SSB started withdrawing from the Chhattisgarh after the state police took over the responsibility of protecting the camps housing members of the now-disbanded militia.
The blast that occurred around 9.45am was aimed at the last batch of SSB troops, comprising nearly 50 personnel, heading from Dantewada to Raipur to leave the state.
This is the first time Maoists have triggered a blast on the national highway, which connects Jagdalpur and Nizamabad in Andhra Pradesh.
Dantewada and Jagdalpur are in the mineral-rich Bastar region, a hotbed of Maoist activities. Security forces have suffered heavy casualties at the hands of Maoists in the region in the southern part of Chhattisgarh.