Bodies Of 17 Indian Soldiers Gunned Down By Naxals In Chhattisgarh Recovered

In the hotbed of the red corridor – Sukma, Naxals have mounted one of their most brutal attacks against the Indian security personnel. The bodies of 17 security personnel, who had been declared missing, were finally recovered on Sunday.

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In one of the deadliest attacks ever on the security forces in India, 17 security personnel were gunned down and 15 injured in an ambush in the jungles of Minpa in Sukma district of Chhattisgarh on Saturday.

This is the second deadliest attack on the security forces since the attack in Sukma in 2018 when 24 CRPF personnel were killed. Chhattisgarh DGP Durgesh Awasthi while speaking to the media said that all the 17 bodies have been recovered.

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Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in a tweet, said: “Strongly condemn the Maoist attack in Sukma, Chhattisgarh. My tributes to the security personnel martyred in the attack. Their valour will never be forgotten. Condolences to the bereaved families. I pray for a quick recovery of those injured.”

Based on intelligence inputs regarding a large congregation of Maoists near Elmagunda, a team of over 600 personnel from Dornapal camp of the District Reserve Guard (DRG) and the Special Task Force (STF) of the state police and the COBRA commandos of CRPF launched a combing operation. The personnel didn’t find any Maoist presence near Elmagunda and were on their way back when they were ambushed by over 250 Maoists in the jungles of Minpa, police said.

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Of the 17 martyred, 12 personnel belong to DRG while 5 belong to STF. The 15 injured are all DRG personnel. Prima facie it has appeared that Naxals received a tip-off about the advancing Special Forces.

Jawans entered the jungles of Kasalpad and were turning back after they didn’t find any Naxal presence. It was after they left the forest in this area and reached near Koraj Dongri that Naxals laid an ambush.

Surviving jawans have reportedly told their seniors that they came under fire when they tried to rescue their injured colleagues. IG Bastar P Sunderraj told reporters in Bastar that a joint team of STF, DRG and CRPF’s CoBRA team were ambushed by an estimated 250 strong Naxal force in Sukma’s Minpa area on Saturday afternoon.

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“It was a joint operation of DRG, STF and CoBRA, in which more than 600 of our jawans were involved…It was a very tough encounter in which our estimate is around 250 Naxals were firing on our jawans from the other side.”

He added that 5 different teams of DRG and STF came under heavy fire but despite being trapped in an ambush the teams did not lose their composure and scatter in panic, which would have resulted in a much higher casualty figure. “Our jawans gave a befitting reply. The Naxals were unable to break and scatter our teams. Still, we have 17 casualties and 15 jawans who are injured.”

The IG added that the encounter lasted for about three hours. “Yesterday night we were able to evacuate 15 injured and today we were able to recover the bodies of 17 jawans,” Sunderraj said.

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The Naxals are believed to have snatched 12 AK 47 assault rifles, 1 Under Barrel Grenade Launcher (UBGL), 1 INSAS rifle and 1 Excalibur rifle in the ambush.

The latest attack is believed to be ordered by new chief of CPI (Maoist) Basavaraju, which was perceptible by a marked increase in the firepower of the Naxals, and is a big reason for worry for the forces according to sources.

“They (Naxals) have been re-grouping for a long time now under Basavaraj, who is highly trained in guerrilla warfare and improvised explosive device (IEDs) and ambushes,” said a senior intelligence official. 

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Basavaraj is known to be aggressive and has, therefore, expanded the armed cadres because there were some specific attacks in 2019, such as those on Bharatiya Janata Party legislator Bhima Mandavi and the attack in Gadchiroli, which were all masterminded by him. Their training usually takes place in Abhujmaad in Chhattisgarh because that is their nerve centre,” said a security official familiar with the developments, requesting anonymity.

Some of the personnel involved in the ambush who spoke on the condition of anonymity told that they had witnessed a spike in the number of ammunition rounds the Naxals have been firing over the past few encounters.

“They (Naxals) have been firing on average 2,500 rounds every encounter, which means they’ve been able to get their hands on a new source of ammunition. Their UBGLs (Under Barrel Grenade Launchers) have a markedly improved accuracy. It seems they have been able to indigenously improve their existing weaponry.”

This is the first big Naxal encounter that Chhattisgarh has seen after the killing of BJP MLA Bheema Mandavi in 2019.

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All the 15 injured DRG personnel, who were airlifted to Raipur on Saturday night, are stable, said a spokesperson at the hospital where the personnel were admitted. “Three people with bullet injuries are under observation, but as of now, are stable,” he said.

Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel will attend a wreath-laying ceremony in Sukma Monday morning for the 17 personnel. On Sunday, the Chief Minister and State Home Minister Tamradhwaj Sahu visited the injured in the hospital.