The National Investigation Agency (NIA) has taken over the probe into the April 3 ambush on security forces by 350-400 Maoists in Chhattisgarh’s Bijapur district, in which 22 personnel were killed and a jawan taken hostage.
Labelled one of the deadliest ambushes in recent times, the attack was led by commander of Battalion-I of Maoist’s People’s Liberation Guerilla Army (PLGA), Hidma, who is wanted for major attacks in the state in the last 15-16 years.
Officials familiar with the development said NIA began investigating the attack after taking over case documents from Chhattisgarh police earlier this month.
NIA has named some top commanders of Maoists – including Hidma, Nabbala Keshav Rao alias Raju (general secretary of the outfit), Mupalla Ladksman Rao alias Ganpati (former general secretary), Venugopal alias Bhupati, Sujata, Nagesh, Prashant – apart from 350-400 cadres in its First Information Report (FIR).
Security forces had launched an operation on April 2-3 after receiving information that top commanders of Maoists including Hidma were gathered near village Tekulgudiyam, Jhiram, in the territory of Tarrem police station in Bijapur.
Close to 1,700 personnel from different camps in Bijapur and Sukma, began a combing operation on the night of April 2, but the next day, around 10.30am, they were trapped by Maoists from three sides and fired upon.
Initial reports stated that Maoists had emptied the villages in the area before the attack, which suggested they had prior information of the movement of forces.
Following the firing, the Maoists also looted arms and ammunition, walkie-talkie sets, cell phones and other belongings from the deceased personnel. A Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) commando, Rakeshwar Singh Manhas, was also taken hostage by Maoists but he was released after four days.
Explaining the “U-shaped ambush”, an official said, in such attacks, there is only one escape route which is also the entry point as the other three sides are blocked by the attackers.
The agencies had refuted any intelligence failure but blamed poor planning and coordination for so many causalities.
As reported by HT after the attack on April 3, security forces have opened 24 new “permanent camps” in the Maoist hotbed of Bastar-Sukma region in last four years, bringing approximately 600 square km area inside deep jungle under their control