Recovery of 17 bodies ups toll to 22 in Chhattisgarh Naxal encounter

As many as 21 personnel are still missing following yesterday's encounter, according to CM Baghel

Chhattisgarh
Visuals from the Sukma-Bijapur Naxal attack site in Chhattisgarh | Photo: Twitter/ANI

As many as 22 security personnel have lost their lives while several others are still missing, day after an exchange of fire ensued with Naxalites in a forest between Bijapur and Sukma districts of Chhattisgarh. Efforts are on to trace the missing personnel. Besides, 31 jawans, including 16 from CRPF, were injured in Saturday’s encounter, news agency ANI reported.

Earlier today, the deaths of five personnel were confirmed and their bodies were recovered, while 18 others were reported missing. The recovery of 17 more dead bodies of the missing jawans upped the toll to 22 on Sunday afternoon, according to the police.

The casualty from the Naxal side was that of a woman whose body was also found from the area.

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CRPF Director General Kuldiep Singh reached Chhattisgarh on Sunday morning to look after the operational work and take stock of the situation. The agency further reported that the Naxals have looted over two dozen weapons from security personnel after the encounter.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union Home Minister Amit Shah hailed the valour of the martyred jawans, saying their sacrifices will never be forgotten. President Ram Nath Kovind called it a matter of deep anguish and expressed condolences for the bereaved families.

Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel has condemned the incident and said the martyrdom of the jawans will not go in vain and the anti-Naxal operation will be intensified, said an official statement.
“The seven injured security personnel, who were shifted to Raipur, are out of danger. As many as 21 personnel are missing and the rescue team is searching for them. I received a call from Home Minister Amit Shah. He has sent the CRPF DG to Chhattisgarh. I’ll return to the state in the evening,” said Baghel, who’s in Guwahati campaigning for the Congress for the ongoing Assam assembly election, earlier in the day.
The Encounter: What really happened
The state’s Deputy Inspector General (anti-Naxal operations) OP Pal said separate joint teams of security forces had launched an anti-Naxal operation from Bijapur and Sukma districts in the South Bastar forests, considered as the Maoist stronghold, on Friday night.
The personnel belonging to the elite CoBRA unit of CRPF, the District Reserve Guard (DRG) and the Special Task Force (STF) were involved in the operation launched from five places – Tarrem, Usoor and Pamed (Bijapur) and Minpa and Narsapuram (Sukma), he said.
“Around noon on Saturday, an encounter broke out between the patrolling team that was dispatched from Tarrem and ultras belonging Peoples’ Liberation Guerilla Army battalion of Maoists near Jonaguda village under Jagargunda police station area (in Sukma),” Pal said.

The gunfight lasted for about three hours. “Twenty two security personnel were killed in the Naxal attack at Sukma-Bijapur,” said Kamalochan Kashyap, SP, Bijapur on Sunday.

Earlier, Pal had said seven injured personnel were airlifted to Raipur while 23 others are undergoing treatment in the Bijapur hospital. “Some jawans are reported to be missing following the encounter and efforts are on to trace their whereabouts,” he added.

Citing “ground report,” Pal claimed that Maoists have suffered a huge loss in the gunfight.

Related news | COVID lockdown in Chattisgarh’s Maoist areas increases load on security forces

This was the second major Naxal incident in the state in the last 10 days. On March 23, five DRG personnel were killed when Naxals blew up a bus carrying the security personnel with an IED in Narayanpur district. On March 21 last year, 17 security personnel, including 12 from DRG, were killed in a Naxal ambush in Minpa area of Sukma district.

(With inputs from agencies)

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