Raipur, July 12: A police superintendent long on the hit list of Maoists died with over two dozen of his men in a one-and-a-half-kilometre-long ambush this morning after the rebels had drawn them into a trap in a dense Chhattisgarh forest.
The insurgents also blew up a police jeep late this evening not far from the zone of the earlier attack, taking the days toll to 36 in the bloodiest strike since the Centre banned the CPI (Maoist) last month.
The multiple attacks came at a time the focus of the national security establishment was concentrated on Bengals Lalgarh.
Rajnandgaon district police chief Vinod Kumar Choubey, who had played a key role in breaking the urban network of the insurgents in capital Raipur and steel city Bhilai, is the first officer of SP rank to be killed in the state.
It was a booby trap, said additional director-general of police Girdhari Nayak.
Sources said the guerrillas, in a meticulously planned operation, killed two jawans of the 13 battalion of the Chhattisgarh Armed Force in Madanwada early today. The jawans had come out of their camp to relieve themselves.
The rebels then circulated information that several Maoists were camping in the area for a major operation.
As the information reached the district headquarters in Rajnandgaon, 90km from Raipur, Choubey left with a 100-strong force for Madanwada, in Maanpur block, about 225km away.
The force fell into the rebel trap a few kilometres from Madanwada. The sources said the Maoists, who had taken up position on both sides along a one-and-a-half-kilometre stretch, exploded landmines before opening fire.
Choubeys men fired back but 26 personnel, including the SP, were killed in the ambush, a senior police officer said.
By the time reinforcements reached the site of the attack, the rebels had melted into the forests.
The officer said Choubey succumbed to bullet injuries. The 49-year-old, who joined the police service in 1983 and was conferred IPS rank in 1998, is survived by his wife and a son.
In the days third attack, Maoist guerrillas blew up a jeep carrying a police team that had left for Madanwada after getting news of the morning assault.
Eight policemen died on the spot in this 8.30pm attack in Sitagaon, about 20km from Madanwada, sources said.
The paramilitary CRPF rushed 600 personnel to the ambush site near Madanwada to start combing operations, a PTI report said.
A battalion strength (around 1,000 men) of the force is being sent to the spot for combing operations and sanitising the area. Six companies (600 men) had been sent initially, PTI quoted a senior CRPF officer as saying.
The central force will also set up a temporary camp in Rajnandgaon, sources said.
The well-planned assault and the death of an officer who spent most of his tenure in Chhattisgarh fighting the rebels in Maoist-infested zones sent ripples through the state administration.
Home minister Nankiram Kanwar went to the spot in the evening, while chief minister Raman Singh cancelled a visit to Nagpur to monitor the situation.
Choubey, a native of Chhattisgarhs Bilaspur district, had earlier escaped a rebel bid on his life in 2001 when he was superintendent of police in Balrampur in the Sarguja region that adjoins Jharkhand. He was later transferred to the Maoist-infested belt of Kanker district in 2007 where he had an escape after rebels targeted his convoy by detonating landmines.
Choubey was transferred to Rajnandgaon in November 2007.