A tip-off, 3-hour-long gunfight in Chhattisgarh’s Sukma; 22 soldiers killed
A day after five jawans were killed in a fierce gunfight between the security forces and Maoists at a forest in Chhattisgarh's Jonaguda, a total of 17 bodies were found from the encounter site on Sunday. After Saturday's encounter, 18 security personnel went missing. As details of the encounter keep emerging, it appears to be one of the biggest attacks on India's security forces in the last few years. Not much is known about whether the Maoists also suffered losses, or what kind of weapons they used against the security forces. But the possibility of this being a planned attack is not being dismissed yet. One woman Maoist is believed to have been killed.
Here is what we know about the encounter:
A gunfight broke out between the security forces and the Naxals on Saturday which went on for three hours and five jawans were martyred. A day after, 17 bodies were found and the toll is likely to go up. Around 30 security personnel have been injured. A woman Maoist leader has been found dead.
After the encounter, Naxals looted more than two dozen weapons from security personnel, news agency ANI reported citing CRPF sources.
Where did the encounter take place?
A stronghold of Maoists, the encounter took place inside a forest near Jonaguda, which falls in Bastar's Bijapur and Sukma district border.
How did the encounter start?
On Friday night, separate teams of security forces launched a massive anti-Naxal operation in South Bastar forests. According to reports, the security forces were getting tip-offs about Madvi Hidma, a top Naxal leader linked with 2013 Jhiram Ghati killings, in which over 30 people, including senior leaders of Chhattisgarh Congress, were killed.
The joint operation was launched from five places — Tarrem, Usoor and Pamed (Bijapur), and Minpa and Narsapuram (in Sukma).
The gunfight took between when the patrolling team that was dispatched from Tarrem was inside the forest near Jonaguda. Cadres of the Peoples' Liberation Guerilla Army battalion ambushed the team and there was heavy firing for hours.
It is not yet clear whether the tip-offs were traps to draw security forces to the spot or whether the anto-Naxal operation actually stirred one of the layers that protect Hidma. Hidma's security cover starts from almost one kilometre. The top Maoist leader at the time of the encounter might have been in the vicinity, which triggered the heavy firing.