Raipur: Bodies of 17 of the 18 jawans missing after an encounter with Naxals in Chhattisgarh have been recovered from the site of the skirmish, police said on Sunday.
The number of security personnel killed in the encounter has gone up to 22, police said.
“On Sunday, bodies of 17 missing personnel were recovered during a search operation. With this, total 22 personnel have been killed in the gunfight,” a senior police official said.
The bodies of three jawans who were reported killed on Saturday were also recovered, he said, adding that the search operation was still on in the forest.
The body of a woman Maoist was also recovered from the encounter spot.
“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.
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.
As per the information received so far, five security personnel have been killed and 30 others injured, he said.
“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.
He said seven injured personnel were airlifted to Raipur and admitted to hospitals there while 23 others are undergoing treatment in the Bijapur district hospital.
“Some jawans are reported to be missing following the encounter and efforts are on to trace their whereabouts,” he added.
Citing the “ground report”, Pal claimed that Maoists have suffered a huge loss in the gunfight.
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.
Leaders offer condolences
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Home Minister Amit Shah and Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel offered condolences over the attack.
Condoling the death 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,” Modi said in a tweet.
Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel 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.
Baghel directed officials to ensure the best treatment to the injured jawans, the release said.
Home Minister Amit Shah also expressed condolences on Twitter. “I bow to the sacrifices of our brave security personnel martyred while fighting Maoists in Chhattisgarh. Nation will never forget their valour. My condolences are with their families. We will continue our fight against these enemies of peace and progress. May injured recover soon,” Shah tweeted.
With inputs from ANI