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NEW DELHI: Three months after it lost 76 men in an ambush by Maoists, the CRPF suffered another massive loss in Bastar: 26 of its men were killed when the Maoists attacked a road opening party in Narayanpur district.
In the third major Naxal attack in Chhattisgarh in the last three months, at least 26 security forces personnel — the bulk of them from the CRPF — were killed in an ambush near Dhaudhai, 32 km from the district headquarters of Narayanpur in South Bastar today.
Twenty-four of the dead were from the CRPF and one from the Chhattisgarh police. One special police officer (SPO) was killed. Fifteen security personnel were injured in the ambush — that took place at around 3.30 pm — and the over-three-and-a-half-hour encounter that followed.
State Home Minister Nankiram Kanwar confirmed 15 deaths and indicated there could be more casualities. CRPF sources put the toll at 26, but added a final number could emerge only after search and rescue operations were completed later in the night. Progress of search and rescue was slow, especially after sunset, with the danger of landmine attacks looming.
Police sources said the Maoists first ambushed a road-opening party ahead of a larger team of CRPF, state police Special Task Force and SPOs, and then the other personnel near the Meherbada nullah.
A senior police officer said over a 100 Maoists, including ‘sangam’ members or village-level supporters, were likely to have been involved in the attack. Sources in New Delhi said the security personnel team had 63 men, who were returning to their base after an administrative and logistics exchange with another company at Paraspur.
It appears that the Maoists had prior information about the movement of the team; there was, however, no intelligence on the ambush. The Maoists are likely to have taken away some arms, sources in Delhi said.
A senior police officer in Chhattisgarh said the attack signals a change in the strategy of the Maoists who normally prefer to lie low during the rainy season. He said that Army helicopters had lifted the injured to hospital. At least 13 injured personnel were treated at Dhaudhai hospital.
On April 6, 75 CRPF personnel were killed in Dantewada. In May, Naxals blew up a passenger bus in which SPOs were travelling, killing 33 people including civilians. On July 12 last year, the Naxals had killed Rajnandgaon district superintendent of police V K Choubey and 32 others in an ambush at Madanwada.
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