Wednesday, April 21, 2010

We took 40 minutes to set up the ambush, says Maoist mastermind

Aman Sethi
300 cadres involved; they relied on one LMG, rifles and hand grenades

JAGARGUNDA: Reports that Maoists used 1,000 fighters and three light machine guns and booby-trapped all trees on April 6 were exaggerated, according to Ramanna, secretary of the south Bastar regional committee of the CPI (Maoist) and architect of the attack, in which 75 CRPF personnel and a head constable of the Chhattisgarh police and eight rebels were killed in Dantewada district.

“They saw us before we saw them,” he said. “They opened fire on our fighters while we were still setting up the ambush.”

In an interview to The Hindu in the forests of Dantewada district, Ramanna alias Ravula Srinivas claimed that the reports of firepower used in the attack were exaggerated.

Accounts gleaned from the intelligence, the Central Reserve Police Force, the Chhattisgarh police and the soldiers who took part in the rescue operations have focussed on the large number of Maoists involved in the attack, and the critical role played by improvised explosive devices planted across the field where the ambush occurred.

The role played by IEDs is significant, indicating the level of planning behind the ambush. A well-mined site indicates that the ambushing party (in this case the Maoists) had ample time to plan its attack. A rifle-ambush, on the other hand, suggests a fluid battlefield scenario.

‘Only one IED blast'

According to Ramanna, the Maoists took a little over 40 minutes to set up the ambush and relied mainly on one LMG and a combination of AK-47s, INSAS rifles and hand grenades to inflict heavy casualties. “The only IED blast was the one that took out the bullet-proof vehicle on the main road,” he said. “Media reports keep referring to 3 LMGs and booby traps in the trees, but we used one LMG and didn't have the time to plant IEDs.”

“We used only three companies with a total of 300 fighters,” said Ramanna. “A majority were on the site of the ambush, while two groups were posted about one km from the CRPF camps at Chintalnar and Chintagupha to ambush any reinforcements.”

If true, Ramanna's account suggests that the Maoists succeeded in their attack largely because of superior intelligence and superior numbers, as they had kept track of the movements of the CRPF patrol for three days before the April 6 attack.

Six IEDs recovered

According to reports in local newspapers, the CRPF recovered six IEDs in the following days, suggesting that the CRPF chanced upon the Maoists as they were preparing the ambush.

“About two-thirds of the 76 personnel died of bullet injuries,” said a source in the Chhattisgarh police, who has access to the post mortem report. The others died in blasts caused by either grenades or high explosives. “Only one person was killed by an IED.”

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