The death toll in the Bijapur gunfight has risen to 23 after the missing jawan’s dead body was recovered on Sunday afternoon. While the dead bodies of eight slain jawans are in Bijapur, 15 are being sent to Jagdalpur, officials said. On Saturday, five personnel were reported dead and 12 wounded in the second major attack in the Maoist-hit Bastar region in 10 days.
Officials said Maoists, too, suffered heavy casualties in Tarem on the Bijapur-Sukma border, some 400 kilometres from state capital Raipur.
An official briefing on the incident was likely in on Sunday evening.
A ground report from News18 Chhattisgarh said Maoists not only ambushed security forces but also snatched their weapons, uniform and other equipment.
Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAVs) were deployed in the region to track down the movement of Maoists fleeing the area on Sunday.
Chief minister Bhupesh Baghel, in Assam for election rallies there, was expected to return by Sunday evening. He had a telephonic chat with the Union home minister Amit Shah. Baghel briefed Shah about the Bijapur gunfight, and said the morale of the security forces was high despite losses. Shah assured all help from the Centre.
Speaking to News18, Baghel said both sides suffered casualties, and added that Maoists were fighting for their survival.
On April 2, joint teams of District Reserve Group (DRG), Special Task Force (STF) and the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) comprising around 2,000 jawans began a search operation in south Bastar on the Sukma-Bijapur border, an official communique said.
Around Saturday noon, Maoists ambushed a 400-member team in the Tarem area. Wanted Maoist commander Madvi Hidma was said to be active in the region. Around 600-700 Maoists and their sympathisers allegedly trapped the forces in a U-shaped ambush on the hills. The gunfight lasted for five hours with both sides suffering casualties.
Search operations were on till the reports last came in.
(with inputs from Mukesh Chandrakar, Bijapur)