BIJAPUR (Chhattisgarh): Over 1,000 police personnel drawn from CRPF's elite CoBRA unit, and the state police's District Reserve Guard (DRG) and Special Task Force (STF) walked into a deadly trap of Maoists in deep jungle in a rebel-dominated patch in Chhattisgarh's restive Bastar, purely on an unverified intelligence input that top ultra leader Madvi Hidma was holed up at a hilly site along with his colleagues.
But the input was basically a well-planned trap of the Maoist guerrillas as they gunned down 22 security personnel and walked away with their weapons too. The casualty figure could further rise as at least 31 security personnel sustained multiple injuries and were airlifted to Raipur for better medical attention.
The lengthy gunfight between Maoists militants and security personnel broke out on Saturday at a remote hilly site in Bijapur district, close to Sukma district border in sprawling Bastar division where Maoists are attempting to run a de facto government in deep forests since late 1980s.
"Guerrillas armed with heavy weapons including rocket launchers were waiting for security personnel contingent... once a larger team of the search operation approached a hill, the militants who were positioned on top of the hill started spraying bullets in a flash from three sides," a local DRG policeman who was part of the search team told IANS.
The attack site is located roughly 500 km south of state capital Raipur.
"The security personnel were stunned by Maoists' heavy gunfire... actually, it was an ambush designed in U-shape but the troopers too retaliated hard."
Reports say that Maoists brought 3-4 tractors on Saturday night to the attack site to ferry away dead bodies of their comrades.
The local police officials are now claiming that intelligence inputs should have been verified from multiple credible sources before rushing a larger team to catch Hidma, one of the most wanted terror faces in the mineral-rich Bastar.
The brutal killings of troopers have created a widespread anger in the state and people in tribal stronghold Bastar have called for immediate revenge.
Chhattisgarh's Bastar division, which is made up of seven districts including Bijapur and Sukma, has been the epicentre of major Maoist attacks in past three decades. Rebels had killed 76 CRPF men in a single attack in April 2010 in Bastar which is described the deadliest attack by Maoists on security forces in India.
In May 2013, Maoists carried out an audacious attack on a Congress party convoy at Jheeram ghati in Bastar in which entire top-ranked leaders of the party in the state were wiped out including then state chief Nandkumar Patel, popular tribal leader Mahendra Karma and former Union Minister V.C. Shukla. (IANS)
Also watch: AASU Protest against Price Hike in Biswanath