New Delhi: As many as 22 security forces personnel were killed and 30 others injured on Saturday in an encounter with armed Maoists in a forest along the border between Bijapur and Sukma districts in Chhattisgarh, police officials said.
Indian Express has reported the Bijapur Superintendent of Police as having confirmed that 17 bodies were recovered on the morning on April 4, which added to toll of five who were announced to have been killed a day before.
Eighteen personnel were missing after five security personnel were killed and 30 others were injured. “On Sunday, bodies of 17 missing personnel were recovered during a search operation. With this, total 22 personnel have been killed in the gunfight,” a senior police official told PTI.
The bodies of three jawans who were reported killed on Saturday were also recovered, he said, adding that the search operation was still on in the forest.
Some weapons of the security forces were also missing, the official said.
The body of an alleged woman Maoist was also recovered from the encounter spot, they said.
“Separate joint teams of security forces, over 2,000 in number, had launched a major anti-Maoist operation from Bijapur and Sukma districts in the South Bastar forests, considered as the Maoist stronghold, on Friday night,” the state’s deputy inspector general (anti-Maoist operations), O.P. Pal, said.
The personnel belonging to the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), its elite unit CoBRA (Commando Battalion for Resolute Action), the District Reserve Guard (DRG) and the Special Task Force (STF) were involved in the operation launched from five places – Tarrem, Usoor and Pamed (Bijapur) and Minpa and Narsapuram (Sukma), he said.
“Around noon on Saturday, an encounter broke out between the patrolling team that was dispatched from Tarrem and ultras belonging PLGA (Peoples’ Liberation Guerilla Army) battalion of Maoists near Jonaguda village under Jagargunda police station area (in Sukma),” Pal said, adding the gunfight lasted for about three hours.
“Among the martyred personnel, one belonged to the CoBRA unit and two each are from the DRG and the ‘Bastariya’ battalion of the CRPF,” the DIG said.
He said seven injured personnel were airlifted to Raipur and admitted to hospitals there while 23 others are undergoing treatment in the Bijapur district hospital.
Chhattisgarh: Mortal remains of a jawan of CRPF’s CoBRA battalion who lost his life in an encounter with Naxals in Sukma yesterday brought to Jagdalpur. pic.twitter.com/JmkWM33CH6
— ANI (@ANI) April 4, 2021
Condoling the death of the security personnel, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday said their sacrifices will never be forgotten.
My thoughts are with the families of those martyred while fighting Maoists in Chhattisgarh. The sacrifices of the brave martyrs will never be forgotten. May the injured recover at the earliest.
— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) April 3, 2021
Union Home Minister Amit Shah said a “befitting reply will be given to the attack” in Chhattisgarh at an appropriate time.
“As far as the numbers are concerned, both sides have suffered losses and exact casualty figures cannot be ascertained immediately,” Shah said, after cutting short his election campaigning in Assam. The home minister is flying back to Delhi to take stock of the situation.
“Our securitymen have lost their lives, we will not tolerate this bloodshed and a befitting reply will be given at an appropriate time,” he added.
Chhattisgarh chief minister Bhupesh Baghel has condemned the incident and said the martyrdom of the jawans will not go in vain, and the anti-Maoist operation will be intensified, an official statement said.
“Our jawans have displayed exemplary courage by inflicting massive damage on Maoist (in this incident) Operation against Maoist will be intensified,” the CM said.
Expressing his condolences, Baghel directed officials to ensure the best treatment to the injured jawans, the release said.
“I bow to sacrifices of our brave security personnel martyred while fighting Maoists in Chhattisgarh. Nation will never forget their valour. My condolences are with their families. We will continue our fight against these enemies of peace and progress,” Union home minister Amit Shah said.
This was the second major Maoist incident in the state in the last 10 days.
On March 23, five DRG personnel were killed when Maoist blew up a bus carrying the security personnel with an IED in Narayanpur district.
On March 21 last year, 17 security personnel, including 12 from DRG, were killed in a Maoist ambush in Minpa area of Sukma district.
(With PTI inputs)
Note: This article has been updated with an increased death toll.