Maoist clashes:

File photo of security personnel from Chhattisgarh’s Central Reserve Police Force. At least 22 Indian troops were killed and 31 others wounded during a gun battle April 3 between Maoists and security personnel in Bijapur, Chhattisgarh. (IANS photo)

RAIPUR, Chhattisgarh – In a major Maoist attack this year, a total of 22 security personnel were killed and 31 injured in a fierce gun battle with a platoon of over 300 People's Liberation Guerrilla Army in Chhattisgarh's Bijapur district April 3, officials said.

Central Reserve Police Force's Rakeshwar Singh Manhas from the 3.25 lakh strong paramilitary force's elite CoBRA (Commando Battalion for Resolute Action) unit is still missing, and search operation is still on to trace him.

There are reports of heavy damage to the Maoists, too. The security forces also recovered the body of a woman Maoist commander - identified as Madavi Vanoja - along with an Insas rifle, said the CRPF and the state police officials.

Besides, citing intelligence inputs, the CRPF said more than 12 Maoists were killed in the operation and over 16 faced grievous injuries in the gun battle. "All the injured Maoist cadres were learnt to be taken into two-three tractor towards Jabbamarka and Gomguda region in the area."

The gun battle took place on April 3 afternoon near Tekulgudem village under Tarrem police station in which eight personnel of Chhattisgarh's District Reserve Guard and six of Special Task Force, seven from CRPF's CoBRA and one from its Bastaria Battalion lost their lives.

A shootout began soon after a joint team of CRPF and Chhattisgarh police's DRG and STF men reached the spot following the tip off regarding the presence of the wanted Maoist Hidma – the commander of PLGA's Battalion No. 1 – and his associates. The PLGA's Battalion No. 1 is one of the guerrilla forces that are very rampant in Chhattisgarh.

A total of 31 security personnel were also injured in the shootout, including 10 from DRG, five from STF, and 16 from CoBRA-210 Battalion. Of the 31 injured, 13 suffered critical injuries and are being treated at a hospital in Raipur while 18 faced minor injuries and getting treatment in Bijapur.

Sharing fresh inputs received from the spot, CRPF Inspector General (Operations) C.G. Arora told IANS that it was a dense forested area and core region of the Maoist where the gun battle took place.

"This is an interior place inside the jungle where access is very limited."

Union Home Minister Amit Shah April 4 reviewed the gun battle, asserting that the "fight against Maoists will continue and we will take it to the end."

Shah took stock of the situation in a high-level meeting with senior officials of the Ministry of Home Affairs, Intelligence Bureau and Central Armed Police Forces soon after he reached Delhi from Assam.

He cut short his campaigning in Assam and returned to Delhi in the wake of the attack.

"Our fight against Naxalites will continue with strength, perseverance and intensity and we will take it to the end," Shah said during the meeting.

He also paid tributes to the slain soldiers. Shah said that “I want to assure the martyrs' families and the country that the sacrifices that the soldiers have made for the country will not go in vain.”

The Union Home Minister said that as far as the data was concerned, “I do not want to say anything yet because the search operation is going on.” The home minister said the state and the center will jointly win the battle against the Maoists.

On March 23, five personnel of the District Reserve Guard were killed and several were injured in an IED blast – the first major Maoist attack in Chhattisgarh this year – in what the police said was a Maoist strike targeting a bus carrying more than 20 security personnel.

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