Bodies of 17 of the 18 jawans missing after an encounter with Naxals in Chhattisgarh have been recovered from the site of the skirmish, police said on Sunday. The number of security personnel killed in the encounter has gone up to 22, police said. Eighteen jawans were missing after five security personnel were killed and 30 others injured on Saturday in the encounter with Naxals in a forest along the border between Bijapur and Sukma districts in Chhattisgarh, police said.
In a major joint offensive, separate joint teams of security forces, comprising over 2,000 personnel, had launched an anti-Naxal operation from Bijapur and Sukma districts in the South Bastar forests, considered as the Maoist stronghold, on Friday night. The personnel belonging to the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), its elite unit CoBRA (Commando Battalion for Resolute Action), the District Reserve Guard (DRG) and the Special Task Force (STF) were involved in the operation launched from five places - Tarrem, Usoor and Pamed (in Bijapur), and Minpa and Narsapuram (in Sukma).
When the patrolling team that was dispatched from Tarrem was advancing through forest near Jonaguda, located around 500 km away from the state capital Raipur, it was ambushed by cadres of PLGA (Peoples' Liberation Guerilla Army) battalion of Maoists that led to gun-battle.
Out of the injured personnel, seven were admitted to a hospital in Raipur, while 23 others were undergoing treatment in the Bijapur district hospital. Citing the "ground report," Pal had claimed that Maoists suffered a huge loss in the gunfight, but the body of only one woman Naxal could be recovered from the spot amid the heavy exchange of fire.
Union Home Minister Amit Shah on Sunday spoke to Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel and took stock of the situation following the killing of the security personnel in an encounter with Naxals in the state, officials said.
Shah also directed Director General of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) Kuldiep Singh to visit Chhattisgarh to assess the situation. A home ministry official said Shah spoke to the Chhattisgarh Chief Minister and took stock of the situation arising after the encounter.
Baghel, while briefing Shah about the encounter, said the Naxals have indulged in such acts of violence just to show their presence as people are getting disillusioned with the Maoists ideology and that the extremists will be defeated.
A Chhattisgarh government spokesperson said the chief minister told the home minister that the morale of the security forces is high and they will win against the Naxals in this fight. Shah too said that the battle against the Naxals will definitely be won as it will be fought together by the central and state governments, the spokesperson said.
The chief minister told the home minister that people are ‚Äėdisillusioned‚Äô with the Maoist ideology due to the development works being carried out by the state government with regards to health, education and other areas even in far off places. ‚ÄúAs a result, the Naxals are indulging in such violent acts to show their presence,‚ÄĚ he said. Baghel said the state government is not scared of such acts of violence and has resolved to carry forward its development works in every village of the state.
Earlier, Shah said in a tweet that the valour of the security personnel who laid down their lives fighting the extremists will never be forgotten.
The home minister also said that the government will continue its fight against such enemies of peace and progress.
"I bow to the sacrifices of our brave security personnel martyred while fighting Maoists in Chhattisgarh. Nation will never forget their valour. My condolences are with their families. We will continue our fight against these enemies of peace & progress. May injured recover soon," he said.