Raipur, Jun 30: In yet another daring and deadly attack, Maoists Tuesday killed 26 security personnel, including 24 paramilitary troopers and an assistant commandant, in Chhattisgarh's restive Bastar region, officials said.
About a dozen personnel of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) were also injured in the attack in Narayanpur district, state Home minister Nankiram Kanwar said.
"A joint contingent of over 70 men, mostly comprising CRPF troopers and some state police personnel, was ambushed by Maoists in a forested stretch in Narayanpur," an official at the police headquarters here told IANS.
He said that dozens of Maoists had positioned themselves on the hilltops and opened fire on the security personnel who were on foot.
Director General of Police Vishwa Ranjan said the 26 dead included 24 CPF troopers, one state policeman and a Special Police Officer (SPO). The slain troopers belonged to 39th battalion of the CRPF.
Police sources said the attack took place at around 3.30 p.m. when a joint team of the CRPF and the Special Task Force (STF) of the state police were on their way for a search operation.
The rebels ambushed the group, leading to a fierce gunfight that lasted for over three hours. An assistant commandant was among those killed. The incident took place just three kilometers from a CRPF camp some 400 km south of state capital Raipur.
According to the sources, the Maoists had taken the arms of a killed policeman but it was not known which weapon it was.
In New Delhi, Home Secretary G.K. Pillai told reporters that the Maoists had attacked a "road opening party" of the CRPF.
He said all others in the CRPF party of 63 had been accounted for and had returned to their camp.
The bodies of the slain troopers are being brought to Narayanpur town, the district headquarters.
"The injured are being shifted to the district hospital and the Bastar district hospital," Vishwa Ranjan said.
Though additional reinforcements were rushed to the spot, rescue and evacuation of the injured security personnel could take time as movement of security personnel is difficult after sunset in view of the possibility of further attacks by the Maoists.
Some of the injured have been airlifted to the district hospital while a team of doctors have been stationed at Maharani Hospital at Jagdalpur to provide immediate medical attention.
The 40,000 sq km Bastar region that is made up of five districts - Narayanpur, Bastar, Kanker, Bijapur and Dantewada - is the nerve centre of the Maoists since the late 1980s.
Rebels carried out the biggest ever attack on security men April 6 and massacred 76 CRPF men in a forested hamlet in Dantewada district.