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Force beef-up in rebel den

New Delhi, March 12: The Centre will send 3,000 paramilitary personnel to Chhattisgarh in the aftermath of yesterday’s Maoist ambush in which 16 persons were killed.

Officials said companies of CRPF and other paramilitary forces were likely to reach south Chhattisgarh by the weekend. Sukma, the Bastar pocket where the attack took place, is in south Chhattisgarh.

North Block officials said yesterday’s attack, in which 11 CRPF personnel, four district police jawans and a civilian were killed, was “avoidable”. They believe “institutional shortfalls” in training, tactics and deployment were the reasons behind repeated Maoist strikes in the state. The personnel had allegedly failed to change the patrolling pattern yesterday, seen as one of the reasons for the casualties.

There are 200 companies of paramilitary forces in Chhattisgarh, with the bulk being deployed in Bastar. Each company has around 125 personnel.

The police force in Chhattisgarh, sources said, was grappling with a staff shortage. The state has 15 officers of additional superintendent rank, against the sanctioned strength of 38.

More paramilitary forces, the officials said, were needed because the Maoists have launched a “tactical counter-offensive campaign” in several states. Three civilians were killed in the past two days in ambushes in Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra and Chhattisgarh. “The incidents are almost identical,” an official said.

Maoists attack security personnel during counter-offensive campaigns as military companies spread out for target practice sessions during that time.

The officials said that in the past too, security forces had suffered casualties “largely because of negligence”.

“But in a year, it is not possible to recruit, train and deploy more than 10,000 personnel. We hope one day, there will be optimum deployment,” a senior official said.

Intelligence agencies have warned of possible Maoist attacks on politicians. The rebels have threatened to boycott the Lok Sabha elections in 72 districts in central and eastern India and parts of Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh.