Bodies of 17 of the 18 security personnel missing after an encounter with Naxals in Chhattisgarh have been recovered from the site of the skirmish, police said on Sunday.
The number of security personnel killed in the encounter has gone up to 22, police said.
Eighteen jawans were missing after five security personnel were killed and 30 others injured on Saturday in the fierce gun-battle with Naxals in a forest along the border between Bijapur and Sukma districts in Chhattisgarh, police earlier said.
"On Sunday, bodies of 17 missing personnel were recovered during a search operation. With this, total 22 personnel have been killed in the gunfight," a senior police official said.
The bodies of three jawans who were reported killed on Saturday were also recovered, he said, adding that the search operation was still on in the forest.
Some weapons of the security forces were also missing, the official said.
Separate joint teams of security forces, comprising over 2,000 personnel, had launched a major anti-Naxal operation from Bijapur and Sukma districts in the South Bastar forests, considered as the Maoist stronghold, on Friday night.
Personnel belonging to the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), its elite unit CoBRA (Commando Battalion for Resolute Action), the District Reserve Guard (DRG) and the Special Task Force (STF) were involved in the operation launched from five places - Tarrem, Usoor and Pamed (in Bijapur), and Minpa and Narsapuram (in Sukma).
When the patrolling team that was dispatched from Tarrem was advancing through a forest near Jonaguda, located around 500 km from the state capital Raipur, it was ambushed by cadres of the PLGA (Peoples' Liberation Guerilla Army) battalion of Maoists, leading to the gun-battle.
Five security personnel were killed and 30 others received injuries in the gunfight, state Deputy Inspector General (anti-Naxal operation) O P Pal said on Saturday.
"Some jawans, both from the police and paramilitary, were reported to be missing following the encounter and efforts are on to trace them, he had said.
Out of the injured personnel, seven have been admitted to a hospital in Raipur, while 23 others are undergoing treatment in the Bijapur district hospital.
Citing the "ground report", Pal had claimed Maoists suffered a huge loss in the gunfight, but the body of only one woman Naxal could be recovered from the spot amid the heavy exchange of fire.
Union Home Minister Amit Shah on Sunday spoke to Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel and took stock of the situation following the killing of five security personnel in an encounter with Naxals in the state, officials said.
Shah also directed Director General of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) Kuldiep Singh to visit Chhattisgarh to assess the situation.
A home ministry official said Shah spoke to the Chhattisgarh chief minister and took stock of the situation arising after the encounter,
Baghel, while briefing Shah about the encounter, said the Naxals have indulged in such acts of violence just to show their presence as people are getting disillusioned with the Maoists ideology and that the extremists will be defeated.
A Chhattisgarh government spokesperson said the chief minister told the home minister that the morale of the security forces is high and they will win against the Naxals in this fight.
Shah said that the battle against the Naxals will definitely be won as it will be fought together by the central and state governments, the spokesperson said.
Earlier on Sunday, Shah condoled the death of security personnel in the encounter, and said their valour will never be forgotten.
He also said the government will continue its fight against such enemies of peace and progress.
"I bow to the sacrifices of our brave security personnel martyred while fighting Maoists in Chhattisgarh.
Nation will never forget their valour. My condolences are with their families. We will continue our fight against these enemies of peace & progress. May the injured recover soon," he said in a tweet.