Maoists used light machine guns (LMGs), under-barrel grenade launchers (UBGL) and “desi rockets” in a deadly attack on a security team in Chhattisgarh’s Bijapur on Saturday, according to top Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) officials.
The officials said personnel directly involved in the operation gave an account of what unfolded in the encounter site on the Bijapur-Sukma border, detailing how a 400-member security team was ambushed in what is being suspected to be a planned move.
CRPF director general (DG) Kuldiep Singh, who is in Chhattisgarh, confirmed 22 casualties, including those from his force. Officials News18 spoke to said the maximum casualty was inflicted by LMGs.
“Force commander told me that Naxals had hidden an LMG somewhere…from that position, they kept firing while hiding in safety. UBGL, desi rockets etc. have been used earlier too, but this time the intensity was lot more. Our boys fought valiantly. Naxals carried away their dead and injured in three tractors. So you can imagine the kind of casualties they suffered,” Singh said.
A senior official said Maoists “fired mortars and bullets” initially, injuring “some of our personnel” near a village in Tarem area, which is some 400 kilometres from state capital Raipur. “The rest of the party, in a box formation, was taking the injured to a safe spot when LMGs opened fire from the village side…the left flank that had DRG and CoBRA suffered the maximum hit,” this CRPF official added.
Apart from the CRPF’s elite anti-Maoist Commando Battalion for Resolute Action (CoBra) unit, the state’s District Reserve Group (DRG) and a Special Task Force (STF) were involved in the operation.
Officials suspect that Maoists planned the ambush carefully — with an intention of drawing the forces in first and then inflicting the maximum casualty. “We had specific inputs that Naxal commanders were present in the area around Tekulgudem village, in the forests of Silger. A search operation was launched based on this input,” Chhattisgarh director general of police DM Awasthi told News18.
He told the media that two bodies were recovered on Saturday and 20 on Sunday. A jawan was still missing.
Intelligence officials said inputs on the presence of Maoists were correct. “Whether the information was planted as a bait to draw in the forces is a matter of investigation, but military commander Hidma was present around that area,” another official said.
The ambush is suspected to have been carried out by Madvi Hidma, the notorious People’s Liberation Guerilla Army (PLGA) commander of the outlawed CPI (Maoist). He is believed to have been involved in several major attacks, including the one in 2013 that killed 27, including top state Congress leaders.
Survivors told top security officials that around 350 armed cadre of the CPI (Maoist) and some 250 members of the Jan Militia, who are sympathisers of the Maoists, took on the 400-member-strong joint team of CoBRA, DRG and STF.
Officials added that Maoist, too, suffered heavy losses. “The female Maoist (killed in the gunfight) appears to be a commander since she was carrying an INSAS rifle,” a CRPF officer told News18. Two others were identified as Suresh and Vikki.