Union home minister Amit Shah, who cut short his visit to poll-bound Assam and returned to Delhi in the wake of a Maoist attack on security forces in Chhattisgarh, took stock of the situation and said search operation is still on. Twenty two personnel of various security forces were killed in the gunfight which took place on Saturday.

The home minister, however, said the exact number of casualties is being ascertained. “As far as the numbers are concerned, both sides have suffered losses and exact casualty figures cannot be ascertained immediately,” Shah said.

“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. Before leaving Assam, he gave tributes to the soldiers and said the soldiers’ sacrifice won’t go in vain.

Amit Shah was scheduled to address three election rallies in Assam, but returned to Delhi after addressing the first one at Sorbhog.

The police in Chhattisgarh said on Sunday that they recovered 17 bullet-riddled bodies of the soldiers, a day after five jawans were killed. This took the toll to 22 in the biggest massacre in more than a year that also left 30 injured.

The gunfight took place in a forest along the border between Bijapur and Sukma districts in Chhattisgarh, the police said.

The soldiers who have been killed include personnel from the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), its elite unit CoBRA (Commando Battalion for Resolute Action) and the District Reserve Guard (DRG), the police said.

In a major joint offensive, separate teams of security forces launched an operation in the South Bastar forests, considered a Maoist stronghold, on Friday night.

The operation was launched from five places – Tarrem, Usoor and Pamed (in Bijapur), and Minpa and Narsapuram (in Sukma) – the police said.

When the patrolling team dispatched from Tarrem was advancing through the forest near Jonaguda, around 500 km from the state capital Raipur, it was ambushed by the Maoists, the police said.

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