New Delhi: The high number of security personnel deaths at Bijapur in Chattisgarh was due to an ambush by over 250 Maoists, all of them armed, camping at Jonaguda village, ThePrint has learnt.
The security personnel, a source said, were trapped and cornered from three sides — with bullets being fired from each side, and found it difficult to manage an exit, leading to high casualty figures in the encounter Saturday.
According to the source, the Maoists after shooting the personnel, took away the weapons, ammunition, the bullet proof jackets and their communication sets. “The Maoists even took away their shoes,” the source said. “The radio sets were also missing, and weapons and ammunition were taken away. Moreover, they not just shot at personnel but also hacked them with a sharp weapon.”
The number of personnel killed rose to 22 Sunday with one personnel still missing and 31 injured.
The forces are now using helicopters to retrieve the bodies from the hilly terrain of the district, Director General of Police, Chhattisgarh, D.M Awasthi, told ThePrint.
“We have identified 20 bodies and are sending helicopters to fly them out of the area,” Awasthi said. “One personnel is still missing and 31 are injured. The operation will take over two to three more hours to get everything in order.”
“The terrain where the encounter took place is hilly and is a stronghold of the Maoists,” he added. “That area is not just geographically challenging but very difficult for operations and very unpredictable. Our teams are on the job.”
According to the available information, among the 22 dead were eight personnel from the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), two from District Reserve Guard (DRG) and three from the local police. There is no clarity on the remaining personnel.
The body of a woman Maoist was also recovered from the encounter site, a CRPF official said.
The encounter began around noon Saturday when a team of over 2,000 personnel from Tarrem, Usur, Pamer areas of Bijapur and Minpa, Narsapuram areas of Sukma were conducting combing operations near Jonaguda village.
They belonged to the DRG, Cobra force, the Special Task Force (STF) and the CRPF.
According to the CPRF official, the team had inputs of Maoist presence in that area following which it planned a special operation.
The team was spread out in the area. When one part of the team of over 400 personnel reached the Jonaguda area, they were confronted by a platoon of the People’s Liberation Guerilla Army (PLGA).
“An exchange of fire started. They (Maoists) were 200-250 in number and all of them were armed,” the official said. “They started firing and so did our personnel. The firing went on for over three hours.”
The PLGA platoon divided itself into groups, surrounding the area at key points, the source quoted above said.
“The personnel were surrounded and firing was happening from all sides. The personnel could not find an exit or a shelter,” the source said. “The forces braved the bullets and this encounter went on for over three hours.”
“Sending troops for such combing operations is routine,” he added. “Since this is a Maoist stronghold, and they were so many in number, the casualties on the side of the forces was high.”
The area, the CRPF official quoted above explained, is a stronghold of the South Bastar divisional committee of the banned CPI(Maoist), headed by Raghu, and falls under the Jagargunda area committee, led by Papa Rao and Naxal leader Hidma.
This is also the area where five additional battalions of the CRPF were stationed in 2020 to take on the Central Regional Command (CRC), which gives security to the Central Committee of the banned CPI (Maoist) and is the most active here.
(Edited by Arun Prashanth)
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