A large group of Maoists who ambushed a team of the Central Reserve Police Force or CRPF in Chhattisgarh’s Sukma area on Monday, killing 25 soldiers in the deadliest attack in seven years, used rocket launchers, grenades and crude bombs.
One survivor of the attack said 300 Maoists swooped in on the soldiers, who were part of a road opening patrol, just 2 km from the CRPF camp. This raises questions on how so many Maoists were present and in a position to carry out an attack as major as this.
Before attacking, the Maoists sent locals to establish the position of the CRPF team, a survivor, Sher Mohammad, told the media.
“We were set upon by 300 of them… villagers, women and the militia-types in black uniforms. They had rocket launchers… automatic weapons, AK 47, INSAS rifles. We also killed many of them,” he said.
While the number was confirmed by the CRPF’s official statement, the acting Director General of the force, Sudeep Lakhtakia, told NDTV that reports of 300 attackers “may be inaccurate” and may have been shared by jawans in a state of shock.
“The total strength of a Maoist cadre in the area would not be more than 300 so the assumption is that one entire Maoist force may have been involved in the attack. However, this is an assumption,” Mr Kumar said this morning.
Asked about reports that IEDs were used by the Maoists, he said, “IEDs may have been used as a diversionary tactic. Investigations to look for telltale signs of IEDs are on. Gunfire definitely took place.” Around 99 CRPF soldiers were in the area in Sukma, which is one of the worst Maoist-affected in Chhattisgarh, to provide security for road building.
When they were ambushed, the troops responded but the Maoists had a “geographical advantage”. In the gun-battle, 24 soldiers were killed and one died on his way to hospital.
According to the CRPF, a “considerable number of Maoists is believed to have been eliminated as the tell-tale sign indicate from the ground.” Sukma is part of south Bastar, which for decades has suffered the Maoist menace. Since April 2010, nearly 200 security personnel have died in six major attacks in Chhattisgarh.
On April 6, 2010, 76 personnel of the CRPF were killed in an attack in Dantewada. Two months later, on June 29, 26 CRPF men were killed in Narayanpur.
A dozen CRPF men were killed in March.