Raipur | At least three CRPF personnel, including two commandos of its elite jungle warfare unit CoBRA, were killed and 15 others injured in an encounter with Naxalites along the border of Sukma and Bijapur districts of Chhattisgarh on Tuesday, police said.
Among the three slain personnel, two belonged to the CoBRA's 201st battalion and one to the CRPF's 150th battalion, a senior police officer said.
Police had also received information that at least six Naxalites were killed in the encounter, he said, without giving any details.
The Commando Battalion for Resolute Action (CoBRA) is the elite jungle warfare unit of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF).
The exchange of fire occurred near the Tekalgudem village around 2 pm when a joint team of security personnel was out on a search operation, Inspector General of Police (Bastar Range) Sundarraj P said.
On Monday, a new camp of security personnel was set up in Tekalgudem, a Maoist stronghold along the inter-district border, around 450 km away from the capital Raipur, he said.
After setting up the camp, personnel of the Special Task Force, District Reserve Guard and CoBRA, were carrying out a search in nearby Jonaguda-Aliguda villages when Naxals opened fire, he said, adding the forces retaliated.
Realising that the security personnel were zeroing in on them, Naxalites fled the spot, he said.
"Three personnel were martyred and 15 others injured in the incident. Of the deceased personnel, two belonged to CoBRA's 201st battalion and one from CRPF's 150th battalion," Sundarraj said.
He said the injured jawans were being shifted to a hospital.
As many as 23 security personnel were killed in an encounter with Naxalites in the same Tekalgudem forest in April 2021.
Of the deceased personnel, constables Devan C and Pavan Kumar belonged to CoBRA's 201st battalion and constable Lambghar Sinha was from CRPF's 150th battalion, Sundarraj said.
All injured personnel belonged to CoBRA's 201st battalion, he added.
Deputy Commandant Lakhveer and Assistant Commandant Rajesh Panchal were among the 15 injured. Of the remaining injured personnel, four are head constables and nine constables, the IG said.
Eight injured personnel were airlifted to Raipur and admitted in two hospitals while seven others were undergoing treatment in a hospital in Jagdalpur, the headquarters of Bastar district, he said, adding that all of them were said to be out of danger.
Search operation is underway in the area, Sundarraj said.
Despite the April 2021 incident in which 23 security personnel were martyred, security forces courageously entered the area and set up a camp to facilitate development works and ensure protection to the locals, he said.
"Despite this incident, the morale of our jawans is high. We will not step back. We will fight this battle more strongly in the coming days. We will give the Naxalites a befitting reply and our continuous effort will be to end their control in the area," the senior police official added.
Police had received information about the death of at least six Naxalites in the encounter, Sundarraj said, without giving more information.
Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Vishnu Deo Sai condemned the Maoist attack and expressed deep grief about the death of three jawans.
The chief minister, along with his deputy Vijay Sharma, also visited the hospitals here to meet the injured jawans.
In a statement, the CM said new camps of security personnel are being set up to strengthen the security system and ensure basic facilities to the local people.
"Maoists have become frustrated as they are losing ground due to increasing influence of security forces in the areas considered by them (Naxalites) as their strongholds, and therefore, they have resorted to cowardly acts," he said.
"We stand firmly with our soldiers in every situation. We will continue the fight against left wing extremism. The entire state is with the families of the martyred jawans," he added.