C'garh naxal attack: 54 security personnel killed
Jagdalpur, Mar 15: At least 54 security personnel were killed when armed Maoists stormed a police camp at Ranibodli in Dantewada district in South Bastar in the pre-dawn hours today in the fiercest attack of its kind in Chhattisgarh.
Police sources confirmed deaths of 38 special police officers (SPOs) and 16 constables of Chhattisgarh Armed Force (CAF) saying that 11 others had sustained serious burn injuries as the rebels used petrol bombs during the raid.
Reports said the Maoists had also looted three AK47 assault rifles, one Insas rifle, three self loading rifles and a number of 303 rifles from the camp, which was housed in an ashram school building. The other portion of the ashram school was being used to house 28 girl children, who had a narrow escape during the naxalite attack.
An injured constable, who was brought to Jagdalpur for treatment told sources that the Naxalites had used a generator to light up the area before hurling grenades and petrol bombs to the police camp.
Leader of the opposition Mahendra Karma, Director general of state police Om Prakash Rathor, Inspector General of police (Bastar range) R K Vij and other senior civil and police officials have reached the spot.
Chief minister Raman Singh made a suo motu statement in the Assembly and quoted preliminary reports to confirm 49 deaths and injuries to 12 others. He strongly condemned the violence.
In New Delhi, Home Minister Shivraj Patil denounced the naxal attack and assured the Chhattisgarh government of all required help for rescue and combing operations.
Home Ministry sources said Mr Patil spoke to the Chhattisgarh Chief Minister after the incident.
Senior Home Ministry officials have been in touch with senior officials of the Chhattisgarh government following the pre-dawn attack.
"A close watch is being kept on the situation," sources said, adding that a helicopter has been sent from Delhi to assist the State Government in rescue operations.
"The Centre has promised the State Government any further help, if required. We will continue to extend all possible assistance to the Chattisgarh Government to deal with the Naxal menace." Talking to reporters in state capital Raipur, Director General of Police Om Prakash Rathore claimed that the security forces had shot five Naxalites dead in the encounter that took place when the Maoists raided the camp. However, he did not elaborate.
About 400 rebels launched the attack with petrol bombs and other explosives followed with a heavy volume of gunfire. Most of the victims were asleep when the attack occurred.
Official sources said eight SPOs and four CAF personnel, including a company commander, were injured in the attack. They were given first aid at a hospital at Kotru and are being shifted to a hospital at Bijapur.
Ever since the Naxalites stepped up violence in the tribal Bastar region, special police officers (SPOs)-- the local youth appointed on honorarium basis under the provisions of Police Act--have been a soft target of the Maoists. These SPOs, who undergo training to handle weapons, assist the security personnel during patrolling and other operations in the sprawling shrub forests and hilly terrains of Bastar.
More than 60 people were killed in a naxal attack on Errabore relief camp housing displaced tribals in the same district a few months ago.
Senior police officers rushed to the site by helicopter, sources said.