In the biggest incident of its kind in years, at least 22 Indian soldiers were killed and 32 wounded in a major Maoist attack in the central state of Chhattisgarh, a senior police official confirmed on Sunday.
Ashok Juneja, the director-general of Anti-Naxal Operations Chhattisgarh, said 22 personnel were killed in a gunfight with Maoists in Bijapur on Saturday.
According to police sources, the gun battle erupted around noon when a joint team of security forces was out on an anti-Naxal operation along the Sukma-Bijapur border in Chhattisgarh when they were ambushed by Maoists near the village of Jonnaguda. The forces were dispersed and stuck over a two-kilometer stretch of woodland.
Juneja added, “The bodies of 20 security personnel have been recovered from the site.” A total of 31 injured security personnel were brought to a hospital in Bijapur, while one is still missing.
This is the biggest Maoist attack in Chhattisgarh in recent years.
Police Inspector-General (Bastar) P. Sunderraj said at least nine Naxals were killed in the nearly three-and-a-half-hour encounter with security forces, while security sources point to as many as 15. Among those killed was a woman Naxal rebel.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi expressed his condolences over the security personnel, saying on Twitter: “My thoughts are with the families of those martyred while fighting Maoists in Chhattisgarh. The sacrifices of the brave martyrs will never be forgotten. May the injured recover at the earliest.”
The Naxalites are an insurgent group that draws inspiration from far-left radical communists, supportive of Maoist political ideology.
The Maoist rebels have been fighting for more than three decades in eastern and central India for what they describe as the rights of tribal people in the region.