Policemen and driver killed in suspected Maoist attack in central India

Policemen and driver killed in suspected Maoist attack in central India

Ten security officials and their driver were killed in India after an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) was used to blow up their vehicle in what was described by authorities as a Maoist attack.

The Maoists emerged from a 1967 left-wing rebellion in the Naxalbari village of eastern West Bengal state, inspired by Chinese revolutionary leader Mao Zedong.

The rebels, called ”Maoist” or “Naxal” fighters, have been clashing with the Indian government for more than four decades. The guerilla group claims to defend the rights of indegenous tribes as they attempt to overthrow the government in several states.

The Indian government had previously referred to the Maoists as the country’s most serious internal security threat, although recent indicators have shown the force of the rebellion is on the wane.

Wednesday’s attack, the biggest one in the last two years, was carried out allegedly by Maoists in central Chhattisgarh state’s Dantewada district.

Ten soldiers of the District Reserve Guard (DRG) – a state force tasked to carry out anti-Maoist operations – were returning from a security operation in a van.

All the security personnel died when the IED was set off, destroying the vehicle and leaving a crater at the spot.

“Acting on information of Maoist presence in the area, an operation was conducted by the Deputy Inspector General. As they were returning to the Dantewada headquarters, the team was targeted by the Maoists,” inspector general of police for Bastar range, Sundarraj P, told the Press Trust of India on Wednesday evening.

“Reinforcements of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) and DRG have been sent to the spot. Search operations are underway and senior officers are there. The process of removing the bodies of the slain personnel is underway.”

A high alert was issued in the area on Thursday in the wake of the attack.

Security forces were also asked to stay cautious, while moving in a vehicle and conducting de-mining exercises to detect IEDs, authorities said.

Wednesday’s attack was condemned by India’s federal government led by prime minister Narendra Modi.

“Strongly condemn the attack on the Chhattisgarh police in Dantewada,” tweeted Mr Modi.

“I pay my tributes to the brave personnel we lost in the attack. Their sacrifice will always be remembered. My condolences to the bereaved families.”

Home minister Amit Shah offered his condolences and said help will be provided to Chhattisgarh’s opposition ruled Congress government.

Congress chief Mallikarjun Kharge tweeted that “the fight against Naxalism in Chhattisgarh is in its last phase, our government will win in it”.

The attack has followed a pattern of previous major attacks on security forces that have taken place during the summer.

The Naxals plan an annual “tactical counter offensive campaign”, in which they take tactical decisions and mobilise people to their cause and resources.

Chhattisgarh’s Bastar region, which comprises seven districts – Kanker, Kondagaon, Narayanpur, Bastar, Dantewada, Sukma and Bijapur – has witnessed several deadly attacks on security forces during this time.

Almost all major attacks by Maoists on security forces, including a massacre in April 2010, which was the deadliest Maoist attack on security forces.

At least 76 CRPF personnel were killed during this time.

The last major Maoist attack was in April 2021, when 22 security personnel were killed in a gunfight along the borders of the Bijapur and Sukma districts.