Tuesday, July 10, 2007

24 Chhattisgarh security personnel found dead

Raipur, July 10 (IANS) The bodies of 24 Chhattisgarh security personnel, who had gone missing after a gun battle with Maoists in Dantewada district Monday, were recovered Tuesday even as rebels launched fresh attacks, police said.

Bodies of all 24 personnel, including 16 Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) troopers, six special police officers (SPOs) and two district policemen, have been recovered in Konta block, over 500 km from here, said Girdhari Nayak, inspector general (Maoist operations), Chhattisgarh.

"The search teams of CRPF and state police, assisted by helicopters, recovered the bodies from a hilly terrain of Konta block, close to Andhra Pradesh border," Nayak told IANS by phone.

"A total of 115 policemen, including 84 SPOs, led by 28 personnel of CRPF's 55th battalion went to the hilly Konta block Monday afternoon to bust a Maoist hideout but about 300-400 Maoists attacked the combing force. The encounter left two CRPF men and five SPOs critically wounded," state Home Minister Ram Vichar Netam told the state assembly.

Police claimed there were casualties among the rebels side as well during Monday's encounter though no militant's body has been found so far.

"The Maoists have probably carried away the dead bodies or their injured comrades into thick forested areas," said Rahul Sharma, Dantewada district police chief.

Meanwhile, a fresh gun battle broke out between armed Maoist militants and policemen Tuesday in Konta block, police said.

"Maoists opened indiscriminate fire on a state police team that had gone into thick forests in the area to search for the missing security personnel," a police official said.

Police estimate that about 5,000 Maoists armed with AK-47 rifles and landmines are active in Chhattisgarh's southern hilly districts. They are backed by about 20,000 cadres who carry self-loading rifles and traditional weapons like bows and arrows.


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