Twenty-two security personnel lost their lives in a fierce gunbattle with Naxals in Chhattisgarh on Sunday. At least 400 Naxals suspected to be led by the most wanted Maoist commander and leader of the so-called 'People's Liberation Guerrilla Army (PLGA) battalion no 1 -- Hidma -- and his associate Sujatha ambushed the security forces in an area that is a strong-hold of the Maoists due to the difficult terrain, large tracts of forests and a smaller number of security forces camps.
The bravehearts were from a contingent of about 1500 troops, drawn from the Central Reserve Police Force's specialised jungle warfare unit CoBRA, its regular battalions, a unit of its Bastariya batallion, the Chhattisgarh Police affiliated District Reserve Guard (DRG) and others. They had launched a search and destroy operation along the border of Bijapur-Sukma district after they received inputs of Maoists presence in the area.
On getting the intelligence input that the naxals were conducting a counter-offensive exercise in the area, a contingent of about 790 personnel set out towards the Jagargunda-Jongaguda-Tarrem axis at dawn.
'Hidma', the leader of PLGA battalion and his associate Sujatha ambushed the forces in their strong-hold.
Out of the 22 fatalities, the CRPF lost eight men including seven CoBRA commandos while one jawan is from the Bastariya battalion and the rest are from DRG and Special Task Force. A CRPF Inspector is still missing.
"The Maoists drew the forces into an ambush with heavy gunfire and encircled the security personnel from three sides. A heavy gun-battle ensued in the jungles which are devoid of any foliage at present," a senior official told PTI.
Bullets rained from light machine guns (LMGs) and the naxals also used low-intensity improvised explosive devices (IEDs) to mount the attack that went on for several hours. The first helicopter used for evacuation of the injured personnel could land only after 5 PM after the gunfire had ended.
About 10-12 naxals were killed during the fierce gun battle, a senior official told PTI. The Maoists carried them on tractor trolleys.
Union Home Minister Amit Shah cut short his poll campaign in Assam and rushed back to Delhi. He held a high-level meeting to review the security situation in Chhattisgarh. Union Home Secretary Ajay Bhalla, Intelligence Bureau Director Arvind Kumar and senior officials of the home ministry and the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) attended the meeting. The home minister spoke to Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel and took stock of the situation in the state.
Meanwhile, Shah vowed a "befitting reply" to the naxals at an appropriate time. ''Our security men have lost their lives. We will not tolerate this bloodshed and a befitting reply will be given at an appropriate time," he said. The home minister also said that the government will continue its fight against such enemies of peace and progress. "Our fight against Naxalites will continue with strength, perseverance and intensity and we will take it to the end," he said.
1. Deepak Bhardwaj, Sub-Inspector
2. Ramesh Kumar Zurri, Head Constable
3. Narayan Sodhi, Head Constable
4. Ramesh Korsa, Constable.
5.Subhash Naik, Constable.
6. Kishor Andrik, Assistant Constable.
7. Sankuram Sodhi, Assistant Constable.
8. Bhosaram Kartami, Assistant Constable.
9. Shravan Kashyap, Head Constable.
10. Ramdas Korrram, Constable.
11. Jagatram Kanwar, Constable
12. Sukhsingh Faras, Constable
13. Ramashankar Paikra, Constable
14. Shankarnath, Constable.
CoBRA (210 battalion)
15. Dilip Kumar Das, Inspector
16. Raj Kumar Yadav, Head Constable
17. Shambhurai, Constable
18. Dharmdev Kumar, Constable
19. S M Krishna, Constable
20. R Jagdish, Constable
21. Bablu Rabha, Constable
22. Samaiyaa Maravi, Constable.