Raipur: As many as 22 jawans have been killed, 31 injured while one is still missing after an encounter broke out between Naxals and security personnel along the border between Bijapur and Sukma districts in Chhattisgarh. 16 out of the 31 injured are CRPF personnel. Among the injured jawans, 23 have been admitted to Bijapur Hospital and 7 are in Raipur hospital.
The fierce four-hour long encounter took place in the forests of South Bastar on Saturday. While 5 jawans were killed on Saturday, 21 were still missing till Sunday afternoon. Police said a reinforcement party was rushed to the spot to trace the missing jawans. News channels showed that aerial surveillance was underway to find the whereabouts of the missing jawans.
Later, Bijapur Superintendent of Police (SP) Kamalochan Kashyap confirmed that 22 security personnel lost their lives in the Naxal attack.
The bodies of 15 Naxals were also recovered from the encounter site while 20 were injured.
Union Home Minister Amit Shah spoke to Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel and took stock of the situation. Shah also directed Director General of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) Kuldiep Singh to visit Chhattisgarh to assess the situation.
Shah also said in a tweet that the valour of the security personnel who laid down their lives fighting the extremists will never be forgotten.
President Ram Nath Kovind codoled the loss of lives in Sukma encounter saying the nation will never forget this sacrifice.
“The killing of the security personnel while battling Maoist insurgency in Chhattisgarh is a matter of deep anguish. My condolences to the bereaved families. The nation shares their pain and will never forget this sacrifice: President Ram Nath Kovind on Chhattisgarh Naxal attack,” the President tweeted.
“Separate joint teams of security forces, over 2,000 in number, had launched a major anti-Naxal operation from Bijapur and Sukma districts in the South Bastar forests, considered as the Maoist stronghold, on Friday night,” state’s Deputy Inspector General (anti-Naxal operations) OP Pal said on Saturday.
The personnel belonging to the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), its elite unit CoBRA (Commando Battalion for Resolute Action), the District Reserve Guard (DRG) and the Special Task Force (STF) were involved in the operation launched from five places – Tarrem, Usoor and Pamed (Bijapur) and Minpa and Narsapuram (Sukma), he said.
“Around noon on Saturday, an encounter broke out between the patrolling team that was dispatched from Tarrem and ultras belonging PLGA (Peoples’ Liberation Guerilla Army) battalion of Maoists near Jonaguda village under Jagargunda police station area (in Sukma),” Pal said, adding the gunfight lasted for about three hours.
“Among the martyred personnel, one belonged to the CoBRA unit and two each are from the DRG and the ‘Bastariya’ battalion of the CRPF,” the DIG said.
“Some jawans are reported to be missing following the encounter and efforts are on to trace their whereabouts,” he said earlier. Citing the “ground report”, Pal claimed that Maoists have suffered a huge loss in the gunfight.
Condoling the deaths of the security personnel, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday said their sacrifices will never be forgotten.
“My thoughts are with the families of those martyred while fighting Maoists in Chhattisgarh. The sacrifices of the brave martyrs will never be forgotten. May the injured recover at the earliest,” PM Modi said in a tweet.
Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel has condemned the incident and said the martyrdom of the jawans will not go in vain, and the anti-Naxal operation will be intensified, an official statement said.
“Our jawans have displayed exemplary courage by inflicting massive damage on Naxals (in this incident).
Operation against Naxals will be intensified,” the CM said.
Expressing his condolences, Baghel directed officials to ensure the best treatment to the injured jawans, the release said.
This was the second major Naxal incident in the state in the last 10 days.
On March 23, five DRG personnel were killed when Naxals blew up a bus carrying the security personnel with an IED in Narayanpur district.
On March 21 last year, 17 security personnel, including 12 from DRG, were killed in a Naxal ambush in Minpa area of Sukma district.