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13 CRPF men killed in Maoist ambush

Using human shields, Maoists on Monday killed 13 CRPF personnel, including two officers, and injured an equal number in the second attack on the force in 10 days in the same area in the Naxal hotbed of Sukma district.

A senior Chhattisgarh police official said the attack on a Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) squad by a large group of armed Naxals took place near Chintagufa, at 1030 am in the dense forests in south Bastar region when the security personnel were returning to their camp after combing and area domination operation in the region that lasted for several days.

"Two officers, one in the rank of Deputy Commandant and an Assistant Commandant, have been killed," R K Vij, Chattisgarh's Additional Director General of Police (Naxal Operation), said. Assistant Commandant B S Verma, resident of Kanpur, UP and the Deputy Commandant Rajesh Kapuria resident of Rajasthan, were identified.

A CRPF officer here said over a dozen personnel have also been injured and there could also be casualties on the Maoist side in the encounter. The squad comprised personnel from the 223 and 206 battalions of CRPF and its commando unit CoBRA. Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh condemned the attack as an act of cowardice and a "dastardly act" of violence. He is leaving for Chhattisgarh tomorrow for an assessment of the situation.

"13 to 15 CRPF personnel were killed in the attack that took place in Chintagufa area. The Naxals have carried out the attack by putting innocent villagers as human shields," he told reporters here. "I express my condolences to the families of our brave CRPF men who sacrificed their lives in the line of duty. It is an act of cowardice. I strongly condemn this dastardly act of violence. Deeply saddened and disturbed to know of 13 CRPF men being killed by the Naxals during an ongoing encounter in Chhattisgarh," he said.

The Home Minister said he has spoken to National Security Advisor Ajit Doval, Union Home Secretary Anil Goswami, Director of Intelligence Bureau Asif Ibrahim and Director General of CRPF about the incident and took stock of the situation.

"I am waiting for a detailed report," he said. Singh said he wanted to travel to Chhattisgarh tonight itself but due to some logistical problem the visit could not be undertaken.

Singh also spoke to Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Dr Raman Singh and asked him to monitor the situation.

A CRPF officer said that the Maoists fired at the CRPF patrol party using the cover of locals and villagers and hence the force had to fire with restraint.

One squad was in the jungles for the last 10 days to carry out operations, he said. Most of the victims suffered bullet injuries, he said, adding the injured and the dead will be airlifted to Jagdalpur and the state capital tomorrow.

Reinforcements are being sent to the area and the offensive by security forces is being led by CRPF Inspector General (Chhattisgarh), HS Sidhu.

Incidentally, five CRPF personnel were injured on November 21 in the same area in an encounter with Maoists who also attacked an IAF helicopter. An IAF commando was also injured.

The attack came a day after Chief Minister Raman Singh said the day is not far when Chhattisgarh will become "Naxal-free" due to the joint efforts of the State Government and the Centre.

In the recent months, several dozen Naxals have surrendered in Chhattisgarh, one of the worst states to be affected by Left Wing Extremism.

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