15 Commandos, Driver Killed As Maoists Trigger IED Explosion in Maharashtra's Gadchiroli
Sources said the attack is revenge for the encounters conducted by the commando unit in the region last year, in which 40 Maoist cadres were killed.
Gadchiroli (Maharashtra): Sixteen persons, including 15 security personnel, were killed as Maoists triggered an IED blast on a truck carrying a team of C-60 commandos in Maharashtra’s Gadchiroli on Wednesday.
Sources said the attack was revenge for the encounters conducted by the commando unit in the region last year, in which 40 Maoist cadres were killed.
The blast was triggered at 12.30 pm, hours after Maoists torched at least three dozen vehicles belonging to private contractors in Kurkheda sub-district of Gadchiroli. The impact of the blast, left a large crater on the road.
The commando unit, part of the Quick Response Team of Gadchiroli police, had set out in a private vehicle for patrolling after the arson incident, said officials.
Director General of Police Subodh Kumar Jaiswal confirmed the death toll and said the team was ambushed by the Naxalites. "A probe is underway. We hope this does not happen again," he said.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi condemned the attack on Twitter and said the perpetrators will not be spared. “Strongly condemn the despicable attack on our security personnel in Gadchiroli, Maharashtra. I salute all the brave personnel. Their sacrifices will never be forgotten. My thoughts & solidarity are with the bereaved families,” he wrote.
Home minister Rajnath Singh too condemned the attack. "Spoke to Maharashtra CM Shri @Dev_Fadnavis regarding the tragic incident in Gadchiroli and expressed my grief at the loss of brave Police personnel. We are providing all assistance needed by the state government. MHA is in constant touch with the state administration," he tweeted.
Questions, however, are being raised as to why the jawans were sent om patrol duty in a private vehicle and a bomb-proof one was not used, especially when there were inputs that the Maoists were planning an attack.
NCP chief Sharad Pawar and state Congress president Ashok Chavan sought Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis' resignation on the issue.
Fadnavis holds the home portfolio and he should step down immediately, Pawar said. "Those who feel shame of conscience if not shame of public opinion would have resigned. But the people who are in power today are not going to do so," Pawar tweeted.
Naxals activities in the state were growing, Pawar said, adding it was the result of "rulers neglecting law and order situation in the Naxal-affected areas".
State NCP chief and former Maharashtra home minister Jayant Patil said the Naxals deliberately struck on the state's foundation day.
BJP minister Vinod Tawde accused Pawar of playing politics over the attack. "Pawar is talking on the lines of Naxals," he added.
Fadnavis condemned the Naxal attack, stating that the Naxal menace will be fought with stronger efforts.
"Anguished to know that our 16 police personnel from Gadchiroli C-60 force got martyred in a cowardly attack by Naxals today. My thoughts and prayers are with the martyrs' families. I am in touch with the DGP and the Gadchiroli SP," he said in a statement.
Maharashtra Governor Ch Vidyasagar Rao cancelled the reception and cultural programme organised at the Raj Bhavan in south Mumbai following the Naxal attack.
The first incident had taken place early in the day when the state was getting ready to celebrate its foundation day, Maharashtra Divas. The targeted vehicles, mostly belonged to Amar Infrastructures Ltd, and were engaged in construction works for the Purada-Yerkad sector of NH 136 near Dadapur village.
The Maoists have been observing a week-long protest to mark the first anniversary of 40 of their comrades who were gunned down by security forces on April 22 last year.
Following the blast, a high alert has been issued to all district superintendents of police in Chhattisgarh, said Director General of Police DM Awasthi. Of the 27 districts in Chhattisgarh, eight are considered as highly Naxal-affected.
"Very soon I will convene a meeting of senior police officials in Bastar to discuss what new anti-Naxal strategy could be adopted in the wake of this attack (in Maharashtra's Gadchiroli) and other (recent) incidents (in Chhattisgarh)," he said.
(With inputs from PTI)
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