Maoist Rebel Attack Kills 25 Troops in Chhattisgarh: Officials

Jhumur Deb
Guwahati, India
2017-04-24
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170424-IN-ambush-620.jpg Wounded Indian security personnel are treated aboard an army helicopter while being airlifted to a hospital, following an attack by suspected Maoist rebels in Sukma district, Chhattisgarh state, April 24, 2017.
AFP/Indian Defense Ministry

In the deadliest attack on Indian security forces in seven years, suspected leftwing rebels killed more than two dozen Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) members Monday in an ambush in Chhattisgarh state, officials said.

The attack, which left at least 25 troops dead and six others injured, occurred when about 100 personnel of CRPF’s 74th battalion were overseeing a road construction project in the Sukma district of the east-central Indian state, police said.

Maoist guerrillas are being blamed for the attack, dubbed the deadliest assault on security forces in the country since 2010, when rebels allegedly killed 76 CRPF personnel in Dantewada, a district in insurgency-ravaged Chhattisgarh.

“The Maoists first triggered a blast at about 1 p.m. before opening indiscriminate fire on the CRPF party,” a source in the force told BenarNews.

Sher Mohammad, a wounded soldier, said the attackers numbered in the hundreds.

“First, the Naxals sent villagers to trace our location. Then almost 300 Naxals attacked [us]. We also fired and killed many,” CRPF’s Sher Mohammad told news agency ANI while being taken to a hospital.

Police, however, had not confirmed the number of suspected Maoists killed in retaliatory fire.

“The attack on CRPF personnel is cowardly and deplorable. Sacrifice of the martyrs will not go in vain,” Prime Minister Narendra Modi said via Twitter.

Last month, a similar attack in the same district killed 12 CRPF personnel.

Maoists, also known as Naxalites, have been fighting Indian security forces since the late-1960s from jungle hideouts in more than a third of central and eastern India’s 600 districts.

Since 1996, about 14,000 people have been killed, including about 8,000 civilians, and more than 3,000 suspected Maoists and 2,600 security personnel, according to official figures.

The rebels, who are inspired by Chinese revolutionary leader Mao Zedong, have accused successive governments of uprooting poor and landless people to exploit mineral-rich forests scatters throughout the region, known as the “Red Corridor.”

‘Tall claims’

Analysts blamed Monday’s deadly assault on the lack of coordinated intelligence among Indian security forces.

“We must review the ground-level intelligence gathering system of our security forces in Maoist-infested areas. This is this second big attack in just over a month. This shows we are lacking in strategy to combat the rebels in their strongholds,” former Home Secretary R.K. Singh told BenarNews.

On Monday, Home Minister Rajnath Singh suggested that the latest Maoist attack was a sign of frustration among the rebels due to the unprecedented success of the government’s security operations against them.

Last year, 135 Maoist rebels were killed, 700 were arrested and 1,198 surrendered, Singh said, adding there was a 15 percent drop from the previous year in the number of attacks by leftwing extremists.

But another analyst cast doubt on such claims.

“It [the attack] throws open many questions. The Indian government has made several tall claims in the recent past that it has broken the back of the Maoist movement. But that is clearly not the reality. Repeated attacks on security personnel prove that the government has a long way to go in ending this decades-old crisis,” Ajai Sahni of the New Delhi-based Institute for Conflict Management told BenarNews.

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