Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Government admits failure in Chhattisgarh operation

New Delhi, April 6 (IANS) Home Secretary G.K. Pillai admitted Tuesday that there had been an "element of failure" in the anti-Maoist offensive that led to the massacre of 75 security personnel in Chhattisgarh.

Pillai also told reporters here that the government had no plans to use air power against the Communist Party of India-Maoist (CPI-Maoist), which has gone on a killing spree in recent weeks.

"There has obviously been some element of failure in the operation," he said. "This incident should not have happened."

He said 82 Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) personnel were caught up in the devastating Maoist ambush in Dantewada district of Bastar region.

Seven injured security personnel have been hospitalised. Some are reportedly in a critical condition.

He said all weapons of CRPF personnel were taken away by the Maoists, who appeared to number in hundreds. Most casualties happened due to pressure blasts.

Pillai said no member of the security forces had been captured by the rebels. "But we don't need to use air power" against the Maoists, he said.

Helicopters would be used only to transport and evacuate police and paramilitary personnel, he said.

Government outraged over Maoist massacre; BJP wants 'fight to finish'

New Delhi, April 6 (IANS) The government Tuesday reacted with shock and outrage at the brutal killing of 75 paramilitary troopers by Maoists in the dense forests of Dantewada in Chhattisgarh with Home Minister P. Chidambaram admitting that "something has gone very wrong".

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh spoke with Chidambaram and called for an immediate meeting of the National Security Council to take stock of what he once called the country's "biggest internal security challenge".

"Something has gone very wrong," a sombre Chidambaram told reporters outside his North Block office. "They seem to have walked into a trap set by the Naxalites (Maoists). Casualties are very high. I am deeply shocked."

"But this shows the savage nature of the CPI-Maoist, the brutality and savagery they are capable of," he said.

Home Secretary G.K. Pillai told reporters that "the government's resolve has been further strengthened and in the coming days and months much firmer action will be taken to tackle the Maoist menace".

In what appeared to be a meticulously planned operation, hundreds of Maoists - one report put the number at about 700 - ambushed, shelled and fired at the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) personnel as they entered a hilly stretch of forest where the rebels have held sway for decades, running a de facto state.

It was the worst ever massacre by Maoists. The incident took place about 450 km south of Chhattisgarh capital Raipur.

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which is in power in Chhattisgarh, called for an "all-out offensive" against the Maoists and said the government should embark on a "fight to finish" against the extremists. BJP spokesman Rajiv Pratap Rudy said the party will support the government in its anti-Maoist battle.

The government had launched an offensive called "Operation Green Hunt" against the Maoist militia in the hinterland of several states in east and central India where they have dug in and even control large tracts of territory inhabited by poor tribals that is beyond the pale of the administration.

Dantewada is considered a stronghold of the outlawed Communist Party of India-Maoist, which is led by a bunch of ideologically driven ultra leftwing rebels with the avowed aim of overthrowing the state.

In March 2007, the rebels had stormed an isolated police post in Chhattisgarh's Bijapur district and killed 55 policemen.

The Maoist insurgency is spread across contiguous forests of about 10 states but their main stronghold is in the iron ore-rich Bastar region in Chhattisgarh that is home to tribespersons whose poverty they exploit to swell their ranks. Official estimates have put their numbers at between 10,000 to 15,000.

'Troopers ignored warfare manual in Maoist den'

Raipur, April 6 (IANS) It would appear that the 75 Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) troopers who were killed mercilessly Tuesday by Maoists were seized with a death wish as they ventured "blindly" into the Maoist den ignoring all warfare guidelines they were taught.

The bloodbath in Dantewada could have been avoided if the troopers had abided by the 48-point warfare manual they have been instructed to strictly follow during anti-rebel operations in the dense jungles, a counter-terrorism official said Tuesday.

The contingent of 120 paramilitary CRPF that was attacked virtually staged a "dress rehearsal" of the July 12, 2009, incident in Rajnandgaon district of Chhattisgarh when the personnel walked into a Maoist booby trap while riding on vehicles - something strictly "disallowed" in the landmine-strewn jungle interiors.

Twenty-nine policemen included an Indian Police Service officer were killed in the attack then, and Tuesday the CRPF men committed the "same blunder" by ignoring the warfare manual rules and lost 75 men.

"I have always stressed that policemen should never ride in vehicles on jungle roads and should always carry de-mining squads and sniffer dogs trained in detecting improvised explosives devices (IEDs) while going on operations," B.K. Ponwar, director of the Counter Terrorism and Jungle Warfare College (CTJWC) based in Bastar's Chhattisgarh, told IANS in an interview.

The Chhattisgarh government set up the elite warfare college in 2005 to train policemen to fight "a guerilla like a guerilla" and also on "how to survive flash attacks in hilly terrain where the enemy is strategically perched higher up and can see any movement easily".

A senior official at the police headquarters here expressed surprise that the CRPF contingent "blindly" ventured into the forest on vehicles.

"It seems they were desperate to kiss death. It hurts the entire police force when troopers get killed in such a foolish manner. I can't understand why they completely ignored warfare guidelines,'' the officer wondered.

He added: "Policemen are flouting warfare rules over and over again... What was so urgent to ride on vehicles and enter the thick jungle roads planted with landmines all around. It's great neglect of the basic guerrilla warfare rules which they have been briefed about before being posted in red terror land," he said.

A police officer based at Dornapal area of Dantewada district remarked: "Tuesday's bloodbath will dampen the morale of the thousands of police force deployed in Bastar (on anti-Maoist operations).''

On Tuesday, hundreds of Maoists -- one report put the number at over 700 -- bombed and fired at the CRPF personnel as they entered a hilly stretch of forest land in Dantewada, killing 74 men from the 62nd battalion of the CRPF and a state police officer. More than two dozen personnel were injured.

The incident took place about 450 km south of Raipur. Dantewada is considered a stronghold of the outlawed Communist Party of India-Maoist, which Prime Minister Manmohan Singh says has emerged as the biggest internal security threat.

It was the worst massacre since Maoists stormed an isolated police post in Chhattisgarh's Bijapur district in March 2007 and killed 55 policemen.

Was Chhattisgarh attack intelligence failure, asks Congress

New Delhi, April 6 (IANS) Terming the killing of 75 security personnel in Chattisgarh by the Maoists as an act of terror, the Congress Tuesday said "there might have been an intelligence failure and the reason for this should be ascertained".

"This is very unfortunate that we have lost a number of precious lives of security personnel in a brutal attack. Those behind this terror attack should be firmly dealt with," Congress spokesman Shakeel Ahmed told IANS after 75 Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) troopers were massacred by the Maoists in the forests of Chhattisgarh.

The Congress also asked the government to take measures to prevent such attacks.

PM speaks to Chidambaram over Chhattisgarh massacre

Raipur/New Delhi, April 6 (IANS) Prime Minister Manmohan Singh Tuesday spoke to Home Minister P. Chidambaram and sought a detailed report on the killing of 75 troopers by Maoist guerrillas in Chhattisgarh, minutes after getting the news of the worst massacre of security personnel in the country.

The prime minister was outraged by the massacre and sought updates from the home minister, government sources said.

The issue will be discussed in greater detail when the National Security Council meets later in the evening.

In what appeared to be a meticulously planned operation, hundreds of Maoists -- one report put the number at about 700 -- bombed and fired at the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) personnel as they entered a hilly stretch of forest where the rebels have held sway for decades, running a de facto state.

The massacre took place about 450 km south of the Chhattisgarh capital Raipur. Dantewada is considered a stronghold of the outlawed Communist Party of India-Maoist, which the prime minister says has emerged as the biggest internal security threat.

It was the worst massacre since Maoists stormed an isolated police post in Chhattisgarh's Bijapur district in March 2007 and killed 55 policemen.

Bloody Tuesday as Maoists massacre 75 security personnel

Raipur, April 6 (IANS) Maoist guerrillas Tuesday carried out the worst ever massacre of security personnel by trapping and slaughtering 75 men in the dense forests of Chhattisgarh, two days after Home Minister P. Chidambaram called them cowards. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has called for a security meet.

"The death toll is 75 of which 74 are from the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) and one from the state police force. Seven others are also injured," a senior CRPF official said here in Delhi.

"The security personnel from the 62nd battalion of the force were on regular patrolling when they were ambushed by the Maoists," the official added.

The officials refused to say how many personnel were missing after the attack in Dantewada in Bastar region. The number of missing personnel could be high as a company usually comprises 100-120 men.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has called a meeting with Chidambaram, Defence Minister A.K. Antony and the three defence chiefs. Though officials are terming it as a scheduled meeting, the Maoist attack is likely to top the agenda.

After news of the Maoist attack, a shocked Chidambaram expressed distress over the massacre as reinforcements were rushed to evacuate the wounded and save survivors of the CRPF team that had gone looking for Maoists.

Chidambaram, the spearhead of a nationwide anti-Maoist campaign called Operation Green Hunt, said the CPRF seemed to have walked into a Maoist trap.

"Something has gone very wrong," Chidambaram told reporters. "They seem to have walked into a trap set by the Naxalites. I am deeply shocked. This shows the savage nature of the CPI-Maoist, the brutality and savagery they are capable of."

In what appeared to be a meticulously planned operation, hundreds of Maoists -- one report put the number at about 700 -- bombed and fired at the CRPF personnel as they entered a hilly stretch of forest where the rebels have held sway for decades, running a de facto state.

According to the sequence of events, after receiving information about Maoist presence, a small CRPF search party was sent into the jungle. The troopers came under attack from the rebels and a gunfight ensued. Reinforcements were sent for, which comprised a 120-strong contingent that went in a vehicle and was ambushed by the rebels.

The incident took place about 450 km south of Raipur. Dantewada is considered a stronghold of the outlawed Communist Party of India-Maoist, which Prime Minister Manmohan Singh says has emerged as the biggest internal security threat.

"A massive contingent of heavily armed Maoists ambushed a CRPF team in a hilly stretch. They first triggered blasts from all directions and followed (it) with indiscriminate firing," Director General of Police Vishwa Ranjan told IANS.

He said one chopper had been sent from Jagdalpur, headquarters of Bastar district, to move the injured to hospital. A strong contingent of state police force had rushed to the site.

Many security personnel are reportedly missing, and two Indian Air Force (IAF) helicopters looked for them in the forests, police sources said. The attackers made away with weapons.

CRPF Director General Vikram Srivastava and senior officers from New Delhi are reviewing the situation in the state. The air force has also asked its attack Mi-17 chopper and transport aircraft AN-32 to remain on stand by. Choppers from the central paramilitary Border Security Force (BSF) are involved in search and rescue operations.

It was the worst massacre since Maoists stormed an isolated police post in Chhattisgarh's Bijapur district in March 2007 and killed 55 policemen.

Former Punjab police chief K.P.S. Gill described the anti-Maoist operation as "flawed".

"It has been a flawed operation, it still is," said Gill, a former security advisor to the Chhattisgarh government. "Their basic concept is flawed," he told Times Now television.

Other experts said the dead men Tuesday had violated the basic principles of anti-insurgency operations by travelling in large numbers in vehicles, providing an easy target for the Maoist People's Liberation Guerrilla Army (PLGA).

"There is a clear-cut instruction for paramilitary as well as police to not use vehicles for any offensive in forested interiors. They are to go only on foot and also not in groups," said one officer, speaking on condition of anonymity. "The CRPF men grossly neglected the manuals and finally paid the price."

While Chhattisgarh Home Minister Nankiram Kanwar blamed the killings on intelligence failure, Chief Minister Raman Singh said: "We need to review our strategy every day. We need to have better coordination."

Chhattisgarh's mineral rich Bastar region has 40,000 sq km of land area but is among the poorest in India in economic development. It is dominantly home to impoverished tribals, many of whom work for the Maoists.

Bastar has witnessed a string of deadly attacks since 2005 that has claimed over 1,600 lives.

On Sunday, Chidambaram visited Lalgarh, a Maoist hub in West Bengal. There, he called the rebels cowards and then gave a virtual clean chit to the Chhattisgarh government, saying the situation there had improved vis-a-vis the Maoists.

We stand with government against Maoists, affirms BJP

New Delhi, April 6 (IANS) The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) Tuesday said that it offered full support to the government in its fight against the Maoists, after 73 Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) troopers were massacred by the Left-wing rebels in the forests of Chhattisgarh.

At a press conference here, BJP spokesman Rajiv Pratap Rudy said it was not a time for debate or discussion, but that his party fully supported the government, which should immediately strike hard against the Maoist terror in a "fight to the finish".

"We stand by the government. We stand by the state government. We stand by all the forces against the Naxals (Maoists)," Rudy said, terming the attack as "brutal".

He noted that the attack was the Maoists' way to try to overthrow Indian democracy.

West Bengal sounds alert in Maoist-hit districts

Kolkata, April 6 (IANS) West Bengal Tuesday sounded an alert in three districts of West Midnapore, Bankura and Purulia following the massive Maoist attack in Chhattisgarh that killed 73 Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) troopers.

"We have already sounded high alert in all three Maoists-affected districts of West Midnapore, Bankura and Purulia," state Director General of Police Bhupinder Singh told IANS.

"We have also asked all police stations and central paramilitary forces' camps to be on alert so that no Maoist guerrillas can sneak into this territory (West Bengal side)," Singh said.

At least 73 troopers were killed when Maoist guerrillas ambushed a CRPF vehicle in a thickly forested area of Chhattisgarh's violence-hit Bastar region. The attack, in which the guerrillas first bombed the vehicle and then opened fire, took place at Chintalnar hamlet of Dantewada district.

"We have asked our forces to keep a close vigil everywhere to combat any untoward incident," Singh said.

Maoists' attack trail in the past year

New Delhi, April 6 (IANS) Tuesday's attack by hundreds of Maoist guerrillas on a Central Reserve Police Force contingent in Chhattisgarh's Bastar region, killing more than 70 troopers, is said to be the most brutal. In the past year, around 200 people, mostly security force personnel, have been killed in ten major attacks orchestrated by Maoists.

Here's a look at the major attacks in the past year.

April 6, 2010: Guerrillas trigger multiple blasts and then fire indiscriminately at a CRPF team in the Chintalnar forested hamlet of Dantewada district, about 450 km south of Raipur, in violence-hit Bastar. The dead include 72 troopers from the 62nd battalion of the CRPF and one state police officer.

April 4, 2010: Maoists detonate powerful landmine and blow up police bus in Koraput district, Orissa. Around 10 Special Operations Group personnel killed and 16 injured.

March 23, 2010: Maoists blast a railway track in Bihar's Gaya district causing derailment of the Bhubaneswar-New Delhi Rajdhani Express. On the same day, a landmine attack in Orissa leaves an empty freight train derailed hitting services on the Howrah-Mumbai route.

Feb 15, 2010: Around 100 Maoists storm a police camp in Silda, West Bengal, fire indiscriminately and set the camp on fire. Around 24 people are killed as the assailants take off with a huge cache of arms.

Oct 8, 2009 : Seventeen policemen are killed in an ambush by Maoists at Laheri police station in Gadchiroli district of Maharashtra.

July 27, 2009: Six CRPF men killed in a landmine blast at Dantewada district in Chhattisgarh.

July 12, 2009: Three separate attacks in Rajnandgaon district of Chhattisgarh claim the lives of 30 security personnel.

June 23, 2009: A group of motorcycle-borne armed Maoists open fire on Lakhisarai district court premises in Bihar to free four of their men.

June 10, 2009: Nine security personnel including CRPF troopers ambushed by Maoists during a routine patrol in Saranda jungles in Jharkhand.

May 22, 2009: Maoists kill 16 policemen in the jungles of Gadchiroli district in Maharashtra.

April 13, 2009: Around 10 policemen are killed in eastern Orissa's Koraput district when Maoists attack a state-run bauxite mine.

April 22, 2009: Maoists hijack a passenger train with at least 300 people on board in Jharkhand and force it change direction to Latehar district before fleeing. The incident took place ahead of the Lok Sabha polls.

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