A band of about 40 Maoists struck a police camp in West Midnapore on Monday, killing at least 14 Eastern Frontier Rifles personnel and looting arms and ammunition.
The attack followed the West Bengal and Orissa chief ministers’ meeting with Home Minister P. Chidambaram in Kolkata on February 9 on the proposed anti-Maoist offensive in eastern India.
Koteswar Rao, alias Kishenji, of the banned Communist Party of India (Maoist), said, “We are calling it ‘Peace Hunt’. This is our reply to the anti-Naxalite operation the Union government has launched.”
The camp, located at Silda, about 170 km west of Kolkata, housed 51 personnel of the EFR.
The Maoists came by three ambassador cars, one pick-up van and about 15 motorcycles.
“While nine jawans were shot dead, five were burnt to death as they got trapped in the tents that were set on fire,” said N.S. Nigam, district magistrate of West Midnapore.
Manoj Verma, superintendent of police, however, said, “Of the 51 personnel, only a few have returned. The rest are missing.”
In Kolkata, the state administration had no clue about the fate of the 30-odd missing jawans till 9.30 at night.
A jawan, who managed to escaped unhurt, said over the phone: “Before we could react, men with automatic and semi-automatic weapons entered the camp and went on a killing spree.”
He said the operation lasted less than 15 minutes.