New Delhi: The 25 CRPF jawans, killed in the deadly Naxal attack in Sukma district of Chhattisgarh on Monday, were having lunch when the Maoists hit them with a hail of bullets and a barrage of grenades.
A party of about 36 CRPF troops, out of the total 99, came under the first assault after they had ventured out from Burkapal on Monday to provide protection to a 5.5-km long road construction work connecting Chitagufa in Sukma district, officials said.
The Maoists squad “very discreetly with the aid of locals" kept tracking the movement of the troops when one party of 36 sat down for lunch. The Naxals, possessing sophisticated weapons, took them by surprise and rained heavy gunfire, they said.
A huge assortment of 22 smart arms, including 13 AK-series assault rifles and five INSAS rifles, 3,420 live rounds of various rifles, 75 magazines of AK rifles, 31 of INSAS, 67 live UBGL rounds, 22 bullet-proof jackets, two binoculars, five wireless sets and a deep search metal detector were also looted by Naxals.
While a top CRPF officer said the killed troops had “finished their lunch" and may be were not in an absolute alert mode for the next few minutes, other officials said “some of them were having their lunch" when the Naxals attacked around 12.30pm.
While the slain 25 CRPF jawans and about seven others who were injured, tried to gather their weapons or take aim at the Naxals, the others on guard mounted an effective retaliation and saved about 40 civilians and construction workers who were present at the site.
What has surprised multiple security officials is the fact that the Maoists are understood to have used few under-barrel grenade launchers—a smart and sophisticated weapon used by security forces—to inflict fatal damage on the troops.
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“It is very likely that these UBGLs were looted from security forces only. That could be as recent as the incident where 12 CRPF men were killed in Sukma on 11 March," a senior officer said.
The senior officer said that while no Improvised Explosive Device (IEDs) was used in the ambush, heavy gunfire and grenades inflicted damage on security forces.
Officials said the troops of the 74th battalion of the CRPF, which came under attack Monday, and a few other contingents that frequent the Sukma region must have been “tracked, marked and trailed" by the Maoists. “Our men have told us that the villagers were making movements close to them. Villagers were also taken as shields by Naxals and that restricted our fire for some time," the officer said.
At present, the troops were securing a culvert that is being constructed on the road and it would have taken about 4-5 months more to complete this task, the officer said.
The area where the deadly blood bath took place is considered the stronghold of south Bastar Divisional Committee of the Naxals headed by Maoist commander Raghu and is under the Jagargunda Area Committee led by another red ultra Papa Rao.
Officials said “it is beyond doubt" that the assault would have been led by the 1st battalion of the Naxal People’s Liberation Guerrilla Army led by Naxal commander Hidma who is said to be active in the area at present in view of the Tactical Counter Offensive Campaign (TCOC) undertaken by Naxals during summer months to assert their influence in the area.