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 Snipers killed 3 CRPF men in Chhattisgarh, bulletproof vehicles helped push 400-plus Maoists back
Feb 02, 2024 05:40 pm

The three Central Reserve Police Force personnel who were killed in an encounter with Maoists in Chhattisgarh’s Bastar region succumbed to shots inflicted by snipers positioned at a distance of around 100 metres, officials have said The encounter on the border of Sukma and Bijapur districts went on for four hours in the Tekalgudem forests. It began around 12.30 pm, when security forces were cordoning off the area around a newly established police camp. Their operation involved the CRPF’s elite Commando Battalion for Resolute Action (CoBRA), the Special Task Force (STF) and the District Reserve Guard (DRG). STF personnel were on the two ends of the formation, while the CoBRA Battalion 201 team was in the middle and moving ahead when Maoists opened fire, taking tactical advantage of open land in the forest. The Maoists were 400-500 fighters strong, including 200 from one of their most dangerous battalions — the Battalion 1 of the People’s Liberation Guerrilla Army (PLGA) headed by their new chief Barse Deva — officials said.  Wearing helmets and bulletproof jackets, Maoist fighters fired at security forces using Barrel Grenade Launchers, AK47s, INSAS rifles and LMG guns. They also had around six sniper teams, officials said. “Even as the CoBRA battalion managed to fight back bravely, the sniper team took down two of them, as well as a CRPF constable,” an official said. The three personnel were identified as Pawan Kumar (30) from Madhya Pradesh and Devan C (29) from Tamil Nadu, both from the CoBRA 201 Battalion, and Lambadhar Singha (35) from Assam, who belonged to the 150 Battalion of the CRPF.  “The Maoists had managed to corner the CoBRA team when two anti-mining vehicles and a reinforcement of 100 men from CRPF and DRG were sent to support the forces. The 10-odd jawans in each of the two bulletproof vehicles drove into the Maoists’ formation, firing at them. The Maoists got frightened by this and broke formation. At least four Maoists were killed and more were injured,” the official said, adding that the “quick move of using the vehicles helped us avoid more casualties”. The CRPF was also able to evacuate nine of its personnel from the spot using the bulletproof vehicles. The setting up of a new police camp in Tekalgudem has been seen as a major step in the security forces’ fight against Maoists. It took two years to establish this camp after one was set up in Silger, around six kilometres away. Tekalgudem had seen another deadly encounter between Maoists and security forces in 2021, in which 23 soldiers were killed by PLGA’s Battalion 1, after which security forces had to pull back. However, after  encounter, the Maoists have had to pull back. Maoists still have control of around 1,000 square kilometres of land on the Sukma-Bijapur-Telangana border, according to security officials, who believe that Maoist leader Madvi Hidma – the Naxals’ commander-in-chief for south Bastar – is hiding in the area. Maoist leaders Hidma and Deva are both from Puarti village, just over 3 km from Tekalgudem. Puarti is the last village in Sukma district, before entering Bijapur. Security forces have recently stepped up operations, establishing nine new police camps in Bijapur and Sukma since November. “The idea is to choke them (the Maoists) from all four sides,” an official said. Apart from the south Sukma-Bijapur border, Naxals have three major hideouts in Chhattisgarh – Abujhmad, North Kanker, and the National Park in Bijapur. Meanwhile, late Wednesday night, Chief Minister Shri Vishnu Deo Sai chaired a high-level meeting to conduct a comprehensive review of the Naxal Eradication Campaign (Naxal Unmulan Abhiyan). “The previous government had not adequately addressed the issue of Naxalism, but our security forces are earnestly engaged in eradicating Maoist presence. Our priority is not only to expel them from Chhattisgarh, but also to wipe out all bits and pieces of their existence,” the CM said. He also directed officials to ensure basic amenities are available to residents around the new police camps in order to free them from Naxal influence. “The establishment of camps, even in remote and inaccessible areas, has left the Maoists uneasy, prompting cowardly retaliatory attacks. We must remain vigilant and foil their nefarious intentions,” Sai said.