A gun battle broke out between the Chhattisgarh police and Maoists in the forests of Chhattisgarh’s insurgency-hit Sukma district late on Sunday, March 21. The battle lasted for 5 hours. Seventeen members of a police patrol were killed in that ambush by Maoists in Chhattisgarh’s Sukma on March 21.
The incident started when around 350 Maoists including women cadres started shooting at a police patrol team comprising a hundred personnel on March 21 afternoon. The operation lasted hours and the bodies of the 17 police officers were discovered after 12-14 hours on March 22.
The team of 500 policemen consisting of the District Reserve Guard (DRG) and the Special Task Force (STF) had gone to Elmagunda in the deep forests of Sukma on March 20. This was on getting leads that a large group of Maoists with top leaders had gathered in the forest in a plan to attack at two police camps in one of the worst Left Wing Extremism (LWE) affected areas.
According to Mr. Awasthi, when the police teams could not find anything at the particular location, they decided to return. “One police party was sent from Chintagufa camp and the other half from Burkapal. On their return back, the two teams went towards their respective locations. While one of the teams was 5-6 km away from their camp, the Maoists opened fire from a favorable position set at an advantageous height. DRG and STF fought an intense fierce battle with the Maoists for five hours. There were more than 350 Maoists including women,” Mr. Awasthi said.
He said many Maoists had been killed too but no bodies were found as the Maoists drag the bodies and take them away. The police that had been shot were crawling to safety but died along the way succumbing to their injuries and massive blood loss. The injured personnel were airlifted to Raipur and admitted to a private hospital where the condition of two of them is stated to be critical, an official said.
Mr. Awasthi also said that before the ambush occurred, there were two more instances of exchange of fire with the Maoists with the other team. “It could have been a diversionary act to stop the other police personnel from reaching the main encounter site,” he said. The two police teams were 3-4 km apart.
While the operation ended at 5.30 p.m. on Saturday and other teams were retreating they carried out a headcount and discovered in the night that 17 men from the police force were missing and one team stayed in the jungle looking for them. On Sunday morning, an intense search operation was launched, while the Maoists still remained in the location and they managed to retrieve the bodies, said Mr. Awasthi.
He said that normally Maoists are around 150 cadres, but that day, they were heavily enforced with around 350 armed men and women surmising they came from other areas.
He said since 2017, the Maoists have suffered huge setbacks since the police force started encamping in the core areas and said, “In the past three years, we have opened 68 camps for the police.”