Ranchi, Jan. 7: A Naxalite ambush today afternoon claimed seven CRPF jawans at Amuatikar forest, around 40km from the district headquarters under Barwadih police station area of Latehar, while the count of those injured has climbed to 12 in the ongoing encounter between security forces and rebels.
Around 2pm, surprise firing from Maoist guerrillas trapped the three companies of the 115th CRPF battalion that had reached Latehar from Palamau based on a tip-off.
A source not willing to be named said jawans got off at Hehegara station and walked 5km to Amuatikar forest this afternoon based on information that 200 Maoists had gathered there but were immediately sprayed with bullets from all sides, “even before they could take position”.
The fierce gun battle that ensued immediately killed four, according to reports. By night, the toll climbed to at least seven.
Latehar superintendent of police Kranti G. Kumar, who could last be reached at 9.15pm, said he was not sure about the number of casualties as a number of jawans were missing.
“The picture will be clear tomorrow. Among the 12 injured, 10 are CRPF and two are Jharkhand Jaguar personnel,” he said.Jharkhand Jaguar joined the CRPF around 7pm.
Director-general of police G.S. Rath has officially put the number of casualties at seven.
What is certain is that the injured could not be airlifted immediately as the BSF chopper could not land amid heavy firing. Eight jawans were shifted to Daltonganj for treatment, a highly placed CRPF source said.
Maoists fired Insas rifles and light machine guns constantly, skillfully shifting the site of the encounter to villages Kuku and Krumkheta villages adjacent to the forest when jawans gave them chase.
Till reports last came in at 9.15pm, the combat was continuing. But senior security personnel are tight-lipped on details such as the locations, number of security personnel in combat and even casualties if any on both sides, citing “tactical reasons”.
However, when The Telegraph contacted residents of the area, they claimed the rebels were those who were flushed out of Saranda and were on their way to Bihar.
“The Maoists engaged in operations here are those who were chased from Saranda. They are taking revenge on security personnel, which drove them out of the Sal reserve,” a villager said.
However, director-general of police Rath has not come on record on this. “Without knowing the full picture, it is not possible for me to give details right now,” he said.
With the encounter continuing at night, airlifting injured security personnel to hospitals is another concern that the top CRPF and police brass is grappling with. Security personnel injured in anti-Naxalite operations are generally airlifted and admitted to Apollo hospital for treatment, but airlifting at night is a logistical problem.
The encounter has come close on the heels of Union rural development minister Jairam Ramesh’s visit to the Maoist-affected district of Latehar, Garhwa and Palamau.