Raipur, March 15: In one of the severest attacks launched by the Maoist guerrillas in the country, the Left extremists today killed 55 security personnel in a police post raid at 2.30 am in the Dantewada district of Chhattisgarh.
The victims include 16 jawans of the Chhattisgarh Armed Force (CAF) and 39 Special Police Officers (SPOs) — villagers trained, armed and recruited by the government to combat the red army.
The attack was so planned that the security personnel at the Ranibodli post — about 520 km south-west of the Chhattisgarh capital — did not get the opportunity to take position and retaliate.
The police claimed that the security personnel gave a befitting reply but gave up after running out of ammunition. The rebels left the spot around 5.30 am after wreaking one of the biggest security havocs.
The post under Bhairamgarh police station was set up a year ago following intensified movement of rebels in the area. A company of ninth battalion of the CAF was deployed in the post, located about 9 km from the tehsil headquarters of Kotturu on the Maharashtra-Andhra Pradesh border.
“More than 300 rebels had surrounded the post, simultaneously lobbing hand grenades and petrol bombs,” said inspector-general of police, Bastar range, R.K. Vij. Seventy-four policemen, including 24 CAF ninth battalion personnel and 50 SPOs, were at the ashram school camp when the rebels attacked.
According to sources, policemen ran out of their barracks when bombs and grenades exploded, but came under the relentless rebel firing. Once cover firing ceased, women cadres stormed the camp and overpowered the security personnel. The rebels set the camp on fire before retreating from the area. All the 55 died on the spot, said Vij, adding that 12 personnel, including an assistant platoon commandant, were injured. “Rest seven probably fled the spot,” he said.
The sources added that the Maoists had bundled dozens of bodies in a room and attached live bombs to them to foil the rescue operation. “They even planted pressure bombs and landmines on way to the post,” a source said.
Barring a couple of arms, the rebels took away more than 50 weapons, including AK-47 rifles. The exact number of the looted booty, however, is yet to be determined.
The incident comes in less than just two months of former intelligence bureau chief E.S.L. Narasimhan taking over as Chhattisgarh governor.
Chief minister Raman Singh making a statement in the budget session of the Assembly said: “I have briefed the Union home minister about the incident and he has assured all assistance for rescue and relief work.” The Centre sent a chopper while the state helicopter had already been pressed into service.
State home minister Ramvichar Netam, along with leader of Opposition Mahendra Karma and director-general of police .P. Rathor visited the spot in the afternoon. Additional force has also been despatched besides the senior officials. Security personnel have launched a massive search operation to hunt down the rebels involved in the incident.
Since the area — surrounded by dense forest — borders Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh, said sources, the possibility of the rebels crossing over to the neighbouring states is not being ruled out.
At least 676 people have been killed in Maoist-related violence in Chhattisgarh over the last two years.