Suspected Maoist rebels killed 24 Indian paramilitary personnel and injured seven on Monday in an encounter in Chhattisgarh’s south Sukma region in a possible attempt to thwart a crucial road link the government believes would break the back of the insurgent group.
Police said that the encounter took place at around 12.45pm local time between the Burkapal-Chintagufa area in the middle of Maoist violence-hit south Bastar area.
The Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) personnel were part of a road-opening party (ROP) providing security to construction workers building the stretch.
“A rescue team was rushed to the spot and combing is going on. Five Maoists were also killed in the counter attack by the CRPF,” said deputy inspector general of Dantewada, P Sunderraj. Senior police officers said that that party was having lunch when the suspected Maoists attacked them.
Chief minister Raman Singh cut short a visit to Delhi and rushed to Raipur. Bastar inspector general and Sunderraj left for Sukma immediately.
The soldiers were from the 74th battalion of the CRPF, including an Inspector-rank officer, who was injured in the gun battle.
This is the second big casualty the paramilitary force has suffered in the region in two months. On March 11, suspected Maoist rebels ambushed a similar CRPF road opening party and killed at least 12 troopers in Sukma.
Sukma is considered among India’s worst insurgency-hit regions that has seen several decades of bloody conflict.