Shilda Village/ Pirakata (West Bengal), Feb.16 (ANI): About 20-22 Maoists riding motorcycles stormed a camp of the para-military Eastern Frontier Rifles (EFR) and West Bengal Armed Police on Monday in Shilda village of West Bengal's West Midnapore district and killed at least 24 security personnel by firing indiscriminately and also torched the camp on Monday (February 15).
Police said the ambush was on a camp in the state, 200 km (125 miles) west of the State capital Kolkata, in the same area where a major anti-Maoist offensive was launched last year.
Recalling the horror of the Maoist ambush at the camp, a survivor and personnel of Eastern Frontier Rifles (EFR) on Tuesday narrated the incident.
K Lamba, a personnel of Eastern Frontier Rifles, somehow managed to escape to a nearby forest when the rebels struck. He said that they were caught unaware when the rebels, including women cadres, who had come on motorbikes, launched an attack on them.
He, however, said the attackers were about 100 in total number.
"There were at least 100 of them (Maoists) including a few women cadres. They set the camp on fire with kerosene. We were caught unaware when they started to fire on us," said Lamba.
Dhaneswar Mahato, a local resident, in Pirakata, said: "I was sleeping after dinner when I heard a loud noise. Later when I went out in the morning I saw it was a landmine blast. Never saw something like this before."
The Shilda camp of the joint-paramilitary forces in the Lalgarh area of West Midnapore district has been completely burnt down.
Bhupinder Singh, Director General of Police (DGP), West Bengal, reached Shilda on Tuesday and inspected the camp site.
The camp, 75 km from Midnapore town, housed about 50-odd jawans of the Eastern Frontier Rifles (EFR), participating in the joint-paramilitary operations against the Maoists in Lalgarh.
The bodies of the 24 jawans killed in the Maoist attack on the camp on Monday are still being recovered. Some of the bodies are charred while others have bullet wounds.
Maoists had opened fire and then set the camp afire after looting arms and ammunition.
In June last year, police pushed back the rebels to regain control of Lalgarh, a cluster of 150 villages in the same West Midnapore area.
West Bengal Director General of Police Bhupinder Singh said the rebels took away a huge cache of weapons in the latest assault.
A rebel group leader, who calls himself as Kishenji, telephoned a Kolkata-based news channel to claim responsibility for the attack.
Meanwhile, Maoists also set off land mines in Bhatmore, Pirakata, Nimtala and Salboni in Midnapore district on late Monday night.
The Maoist rebellion began four decades ago, championing the cause of poor peasants in the east, but has now spread to about 20 of India's 28 states, with the rebels targeting police and government property in hit-and-run attacks.
After a resounding general election win in May last year, the government has decided to take on an estimated 22,000 Maoist rebels who hold sway over swathes of countryside. By Ajitha Menon (ANI)