Maoists strike again, kill 14 CRPF men

Ultras use villagers as shields in Sukma

Maoists strike again, kill 14 CRPF men

In a daring attack, Maoists on Monday morning killed 14 Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) personnel, including two officers, and injured 12 others in Chhattisgarh’s Sukma district.

They had allegedly fortified themselves with human shields to deter the security forces from firing at them.

“As per latest reports, 14 CRPF men were killed and another 12 have been injured,” Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Raman Singh told reporters late on Monday night.

This was the second attack on CRPF personnel, who were returning to camp after a combing and area-domination operation that lasted for several days in a village near Chintagufa, in 10 days. Earlier, the ultras had targeted an IAF chopper that was airlifting injured personnel.

The attack took place 9 km from Chintagufa, where 76 CRPF personnel were killed in 2008 in one of the worst Maoist attacks ever. It came a day after Raman Singh expressed hope that the day was not far when the state would become “Maoist-free”.

A “deeply saddened” Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh, who described the attack as an “act of cowardice”, will rush to Chhattisgarh on Tuesday to take stock of the situation. “I strongly condemn this dastardly act of violence. This is a challenge for the entire nation. I am personally hurt,” said Singh, who had spoken with the Chhattisgarh chief minister.

Strongly condemning “this senseless act of violence”, Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi urged the government to probe the incident thoroughly. “My thoughts and prayers are with the family members of the brave soldiers who lost their lives in this incident,” he said.

A senior CRPF official said the force had launched a major offensive against Maoists in their hotbed of Sukma.

Around 11:30 am, they entered into an encounter with a large group of Maoists, who had taken “well-entrenched” positions in a village.

“Counter-offensive by the CRPF troops was restricted as the Maoists used villagers as human shields. The troops fought bravely, but could not retaliate effectively in order to avoid collateral damage,” said the official.

“Two officers—one in the rank of Deputy Commandant (B S Verma) and another an Assistant Commandant (Rakesh), have been killed,” Chhattisgarh Additional Director General of Police (Maoist Operation) R K Vij was quoted by PTI as saying.

The squad consisted of personnel from the 223 and 206 battalions of CRPF and its commando unit CoBRA.

CRPF Acting Director General R C Tayal said they would “find out exactly what happened” on Tuesday.

As the terrain is difficult to reach, it is difficult to send help and reinforcement. Former Chhattisgarh chief minister and Congress leader Ajit Jogi acknowledged the difficulties, saying, “You cannot send help at night because terrain is so difficult. Force can be sent on foot from the Chintagufa side.”

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