Toll rises to 22 as bodies of 17 more jawans recovered at Maoist encounter site in Chhattisgarh

Express News Service
RAIPUR: The casualty figure of the troopers engaged in the fierce gun battle with the militant battalion of the outlawed CPI (Maoist) on Saturday has risen to eight with 21 personnel still missing in the inhospitable Silger forested landscape of strife-torn Bijapur district, about 400 km south of Raipur. 

With one team of security forces involved in the intelligence-based operation yet to return, the reinforcements have been rushed to the area and the search operation further intensified.

The Bastar police stated the death toll had increased to 8.

Meanwhile CRPF DG Kuldiep Singh reached Raipur on Sunday morning and confirmed that 21 jawans are still missing after the encounter.

According to the information reaching the state capital, the search operations are being carried out cautiously by the backup force though they are yet to reach at the ground zero where the intense exchange of fire ensued for over three hours.

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On Friday night, on the authentic tip-off over the major movement of the Maoists, the planned anti-Maoist operations were undertaken by various parties of the forces along the Bijapur-Sukma border from three different directions in the conflict zone of Bastar.

A gunfight resulted between one of the teams and the armed guerrilla rebels who reportedly ambushed the troopers near Tarrem  in Bijapur district. The Maoists carried out the attack when the forces were returning after the operation on Saturday noon.

The Bijapur incident was the second major Maoist attack inflicting the casualties on the forces during the last ten days in the conflict zone of Bastar.

On March 23, five personnel of district reserve guards (DRG) were killed and over a dozen injured in a series of powerful improvised explosive device (IED) blasts triggered by the Maoists who targeted a bus carrying jawans in Narayanpur district.

Meanwhile, Union Home Minister Amit Shah on Sunday spoke to Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel and took stock of the situation, officials said.

Shah also directed Director General of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) Kuldiep Singh to visit Chhattisgarh to asses the situation.

The home minister spoke to the Chhattisgarh chief minister and took stock of the situation arising after the encounter, a home ministry official said.

The chief minister is believed to have briefed the home minister about the steps taken by the state government after the incident, another official said.

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Earlier, Shah said in a tweet that the valour of the security personnel who laid down their lives fighting the extremists will never be forgotten.

The home minister also said that the government will continue its fight against such enemies of peace and progress.

Baghel, while briefing Shah about the encounter, said the Naxals have indulged in such acts of violence just to show their presence as people are getting disillusioned with the Maoists ideology and that the extremists will be defeated.

A Chhattisgarh government spokesperson said the chief minister told the home minister that the morale of the security forces is high and they will win against the Naxals in this fight.

Shah too said that the battle against the Naxals will definitely be won as it will be fought together by the central and state governments, the spokesperson said.

The chief minister told the home minister that people are disillusioned with the Maoist ideology due to the development works being carried out by the state government with regards to health, education and other areas even in far off places.

As a result, the Naxals are indulging in such violent acts to show their presence, he said.

Baghel said the state government is not scared of such acts of violence and has resolved to carry forward its development works in every village of the state.

“I bow to the sacrifices of our brave security personnel martyred while fighting Maoists in Chhattisgarh. Nation will never forget their valour. My condolences are with their families. We will continue our fight against these enemies of peace & progress. May injured recover soon,” he said.

(With PTI Inputs)