New Delhi: In Chhattisgarh 18 suspected Naxals have been killed in two separate operations in Bijapur and Sukma. Six CRPF personnel were injured, two are said to be critical. 16 alleged Naxals were killed in Bijapur, Chattisgarh with a combing operation that began on Thursday night ending on Friday morning. And in an operation at Sukma district, two suspected Naxals were shot dead.
The encounter, which took place in the forests of Silger, an uncharted Maoist zone between the Naxal hotbed of Jagargunda and Basaguda in Bijapur district of Bastar region, was launched last night in a joint operation by over 300 CRPF and state police personnel from three directions.
Officials said there were reports of more Naxals being killed in the encounter but the bodies could not be recovered. Home Minister P Chidambaram, while interacting with the media in the national capital said among the killed ultras, three were "important leaders" of the Naxalites cadre and identified them as Somulu, Nagesh and Mahesh.
"The CRPF and security forces dealt with the incident bravely and with great courage and skill," he said. This is the biggest offensive by security forces in a Naxal stronghold in Chhattisgarh this year.
Six CRPF men, including two CoBRA commandos, sustained bullet injuries and have been air-lifted for medical aid to Raipur. Two of them are critical, officials said.
This is the same area, close to Chintalnar, where Naxals had carried out an audacious attack on security forces killing 75 CRPF men and one state police personnel in 2010.
Chidambaram said the operation was a planned one by the CRPF and state police but the "first fire" came from the Maoists and the forces were subjected to heavy firing.
He said there were 45 ultras who ambushed the security forces' squad.
Keeping in view the tough terrain and presence of a big Naxal squad in mind, the CRPF had deputed a deputy inspector general and two commandant-rank officers, supported by an additional SP of state police, to lead the operation.
The CRPF mobilised three units of commandos and regular troops, aided by two helicopters for the encounter from three directions -- Jagargunda, Chintalnar and Basaguda.
The security forces also recovered some weapons, .303 rifles and other paraphernalia after the area was searched by them.
The encounter comes over a month after Maoists had abducted and subsequently released the Collector of Sukma district Alex Paul Menon in Bastar region.
The CRPF has deployed about 20 battalions (20,000 personnel) for undertaking anti-Naxal operations in the state.
With additional information from PTI