26 CRPF men slain in Naxal ambush

Hyderabad, June 30: In the third major attack since April 6 Dantewada massacre, the Maoists on Tuesday killed at least 26 CRPF jawans near Jharaghati under Dhaudei police station limits in Narayanpur district, Chhattisgarh.

Confirming the toll in the Maoist attack that began at 3 p.m., Union Home Secretary G K Pillai said reinforcements, including doctors from neighbouring CRPF camps, had been rushed to treat the injured.

About 90 well-armed Maoists attacked E and F Companies of the 39th CRPF battalion, consisting of 63 men, when they were returning after opening Dauria road in Narayanpur district. The Home Ministry fears the toll could go up once the reinforcements search the jungle in the morning.

Only one Chetak helicopter could be pressed into service to evacuate the injured as the attack took place late in the evening, said Home Ministry sources adding that five critically injured had been shifted to hospitals in Jagdalpur.

Senior police officials from Chhattisgarh told Express that the Maoists lay in wait in the dense Jharaghati forest when the CRPF road-opening party was securing the area.

“They launched the attack taking the CRPF men by surprise. The jawans tried to retaliate but the naxalites hurled grenades and opened machine gun fire making it difficult to fight back,” sources said.

Narayanpur district, which has a strength of 500 policemen and 200 special police officers relies heavily on CRPF for anti-Maoist operations.

A few years ago, the situation was even worse. The district had only 120 policemen.

“We wanted to have a camp in Jharaghati as it is an important area from where all our movement takes place. But CRPF has been opposing it, saying they wanted a proper building to be constructed there with all facilities. They were told to first go and set up a camp but they did not budge,” police officials said.

Jharaghati, the main link between Narayanpur and Chote Dongar, is known to be a dangerous zone as many ambushes have taken place there.

“The terrain is ideal for the rebels,” sources said.

Narayanpur SP Rahul Bhagat and senior police officials were engaged in rescue operations.