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9 CRPF soldiers killed in Sukma ambush

New Delhi: At least nine CRPF soldiers were killed and two were critically injured on Tuesday when Maoists blew up a mine-protected vehicle in Chhattisgarh's Sukma district, around 500km from the capital Raipur.

Force spokesperson Dhinakaran said the jawans were conducting an area domination operation in a forest in the Kistaram area when their vehicle was blown up.

PTI reported, quoting officials, that more than 50kg of explosives were used, and that the vehicle was thrown up 10 feet in the air by the blast.

Eight of the 12 soldiers inside the vehicle died on the spot and one succumbed to his injuries while being airlifted to Raipur for treatment.

The soldiers belonged to the 212th battalion of the Central Reserve Police Force.

"When a convoy of motorcycles and 2 MPVs (mine-protected vehicles) were crossing the area in the noon, the second mine protected vehicle got caught in the blast," PTI quoted CRPF director-general R.R. Bhatnagar as saying.

The blast is suspected to have been triggered by Maoists by joining wires from a distance when the MPV crossed over the explosive devices on the road from Kistaram and Palodi, officials said.

Dhinakaran said that around 8am on Tuesday an encounter took place in the same area between the CRPF's elite commando unit CoBRA and Maoists, who fled. The Maoists targeted the second team at 12.30pm.

Those killed have been identified as assistant sub-inspector R.K.S. Tomar, head constable Laxman, constables Ajay K. Yadav, Manoranjan Lanka, Jitendra Singh, Shobhit Sharma, Manoj Singh, Dharmendra Singh and Chandra H.S. The injured are Madan Kumar and Rajesh Kumar.

The attack came nearly a year after 25 CRPF soldiers were killed by Maoists in an ambush in April last year. Another attack a month and a half earlier in the same region had killed 12 soldiers.

The recurring attacks on CRPF personnel have belied the government claims that demonetisation had helped choke Maoist funds. The Congress pointed out on Tuesday that since demonetisation, there had been 23 major attacks by Maoists that had killed 97 soldiers.

Union home minister Rajnath Singh condemned the killing. "Today's IED blast in Sukma, Chhattisgarh, is deeply distressing. I bow to each and every security personnel who attained martyrdom while serving the nation," Singh said in a tweet.

Congress chief Rahul Gandhi described the attack as tragic. "It reflects a deteriorating internal security situation due to flawed policies. My condolences to the families of those killed. To those who have been injured, I wish a speedy recovery," he wrote on Twitter.

The Opposition party said the rise in casualties in Naxalite and terror violence was the outcome of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's policies.

Expressing solidarity with the families of the slain CRPF soldiers, the Congress said: "Endangering India's national security is a direct consequence of a Modi government's aimless, irresolute and inconsistent polices. Modi had sold the 'national security' plank hard to attain power, but in the past four years, we have only witnessed a precarious security situation in the country."

The Congress statement said ceasefire violations from across the border, cross-border infiltration, terror attacks on security installations and Naxalite attacks have increased manifold.

"Hollow claims, sloganeering and drafting acronyms for propaganda cannot be a substitute to sound policy measures. Rhetoric and headlines management only exacerbate the situation and endanger our people," it added.

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