New Delhi: In what is claimed to be the worst attack by Maoist rebels, at least 70 Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) and district force personnel were killed in an ambush in the Mukrana forests of Chhattisgarh’s Dantewada district.
While the government sought to brave it out, analysts have blamed the attack—the third since February—on poor strategy.
State’s failure: An injured soldier being carried away after the Maoist attack. The personnel, part of a joint force of a CRPF and police team, were attacked when returning from a four-day anti-Naxal operation. AP
The personnel—part of a combined force of an 80-member CRPF and district police team—were attacked when returning from a four-day anti-Naxal operation.
“The casualty is very high and I am deeply shocked at the loss of lives... This shows the savage nature of CPI (Maoist) and their brutality and the savagery they are capable of. Senior officials will be reaching there shortly,” said Union home minister P. Chidambaram.
“Government of Chhattisgarh and CRPF together had planned this operation. They had mobilized both the state forces and the CRPF, but something has gone drastically wrong. They seem to have walked into a trap set by Naxalites,” he said.
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Tuesday’s offensive has been the deadliest massacre of security forces by the extremist insurgents in a decades-long conflict. In March 2007, a Naxal attack killed 55 policemen in Chhattisgarh.
The intensity of the conflict has been scaling up in recent weeks with the government and Naxalites engaged in violent shoot outs.
In February, at least 25 security personnel were killed when Maoists attacked a police camp in West Bengal. On Sunday, at least 10 policemen were killed in a separate landmine attack in Orissa.
The Maoist rebels operate in 11 of 28 states in the country. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has described the Naxal problem as one of the greatest internal security threats.
Analysts say the government’s flawed anti-Naxal strategy and inadequate forces are responsible for Tuesday’s attack. “This is a severe failure of the state intelligence, which had no clue of the movement of 1,000 men. This proves there is a need for a change in strategy and the urgency to equip the state machinery to fight the Naxals,” said Prakash Singh, a former director general of the Border Security Force.
The Naxals are also seeking to push back on the step-up in the government offensive through Operation Greenhunt.
“It is a direct response to Operation Greenhunt and they want to show that such efforts won’t make much difference to their operations,” said Bharat Karnad, internal security expert and a former member of the National Security Advisory Board of the National Security Council. “If the government continues with Operation Greenhunt, it will get some success like killing a few Maoists, etc., but it won’t help it throttle the movement,” he added. “For that, the Maoist leadership has to be eliminated, which requires genuine, special forces.”
The main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party, which is the ruling party in Chhattisgarh, has called for tough action against the Maoists.
PTI, Bloomberg and AFP contributed to this story.