Just a day after Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram declared that Naxalite violence will not cast a damper on the October 13 elections in Maharashtra, the rebels struck Gadchiroli district on Thursday, killing 17 policemen.
A 300-strong band of Naxals attacked a 40-man patrol party of policemen and commandos of the elite anti-Naxal force C-60, just a km from the Lahiri police station. They fought a pitched battle for four hours. Terror tactics
Among the victims — Rama Khuryani, who led the C-60 unit, and Sub-inspector Chandrashekhar Deshmukh (30).
Maoists in the region have upped the ante after the recent arrest of ideologue Kobad Ghandy — warning the state machinery through posters and pamphlets to release their leader or face the consequences.
In another act of Naxal violence on Thursday, police guide Suresh Halame (30) was beheaded in Malewada village, north Gadchiroli. An armed group stormed his home and dragged him out before hacking his head off in front of other villagers.
Senior police officials have rushed to Lahiri with reinforcements — over 3,500 police and Border Security Forces personnel.
Manoj Kumar Sharma, additional superintendent of police, Gadchiroli, said: “A rescue team has been sent to recover the bodies and bring them back.”
Lahiri shares a border with the Abujmarh area of Chhattisgarh, considered a Naxalite stronghold.
This is the third time Naxalites have attacked policemen in Gadchiroli since Sunday, but the first time securitymen have suffered casualties.
So far this year, 52 police personnel have been killed by Naxalites in Maharashtra.
Across India, 250 security personnel have fallen to Maoists between January and August this year.