At least 12 CRPF troopers were killed on Tuesday when their vehicle was blown up in a landmine blast engineered by Maoists at Pushtola in Gadchiroli district, about 275 km southeast of Nagpur.
The incident, which happened around 12.30 pm, took place on the day CRPF director general K Vijay Kumar was to visit the place for inspecting the force's camps in the district, which borders Chhattisgarh. He, along with senior officials, has rushed to the blast spot.
The security personnel were on their way to three villages 15-20 km away from their camp as part of their civic action programme to reach out to villagers.
"The villagers obviously knew about the programme," a senior CRPF official in Delhi said. Word about the CRPF movement also reached the Maoists, who carried out the attack.
That the jawans were travelling in a CRPF bus made them an easy target. "It was a familiar route used by police and security vehicles and thought to be safe," the official said.After the landmine blast, armed Maoists encircled the troopers and fired. Nine jawans were killed on the spot, and three more died on their way to the Gadchiroli Civil Hospital and a private nursing home at Nagpur. A CRPF inquiry has been ordered. Those who died were from nine states including Delhi, West Bengal, Uttar Pradesh and Kerala.
The 20 injured jawans were airlifted to Gadchiroli after the incident. Among the injured, eight are reported to be very critical and were shifted to a private nursing home in Nagpur.
Deputy inspector general of police (Gadchiroli) Sunil Ramanand said the security forces had begun combing operations in the area.
This is the third instance of major Maoist violence in the district in the past three years. The previous ones were in October and May 2009.
The Maoist movement in Gadchiroli goes back to the early eighties.