At around 12.25pm local time, in the Burkapal-Chintagufa area of south Bastar, India, the 74th Battalion of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF or Jawans) were stopping for lunch in a pocket of forest when around 300 Maoist guerillas or ‘Naxalites’ launched a surprise attack.
The ensuing gun battle left at least 26 Jawans dead, six injured and five more are still missing. The Chhattisgarh Police described the attack as having been planned and executed with “deadly accuracy”. The insurgents reportedly used locally-made mortars, tiffin bombs, and explosive arrow-heads before looting some of the Jawans’ weapons.
A ‘Naxal’ or ‘Naxalite’ is a member of the Communist Party of India. The militant group was born out of a split in the party during the late 1960s. Between 2002 and 2006 more than 3000 people were killed in Naxalite-Government conflicts and the fighting had displaced an estimated 350,000 tribal members from their ancestral lands by 2009.
Before being whisked away in an ambulance, one injured officer told reporters that the Maoist rebels had sent local villagers to track their location before the 300-strong group appeared out of nowhere and launched the attack.
“The Naxalites fired at a patrolling party of the CRPF near Burkapal village, leaving six personnel injured,” Chhattisgarh Police Special Director General (Anti-Naxal operations) DM Awasthi told PTI.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi said the country was proud of the valour of the CRPF soldiers. “The sacrifice of the martyrs will not go in vain. Condolences to their families. May those injured in today’s attack in Chhattisgarh recover at the earliest,” he wrote on Twitter.
The troops had been deployed to protect construction workers building a road through the region which is reportedly a hotbed for Maoist insurgents.
The Naxalites regularly launch such offensives in the area. In 2012, 76 CRPF troops died and last month another 12 suffered a similar fate in the very same region.