The Maoist strike on the CRPF when its personnel were returning to their camp was the biggest attack on the paramilitary force in Chhattisgarh this year. On March 11, eleven CRPF men were among 15 people killed in a Maoist attack in Sukma district.
"As per latest reports, 14 CRPF men were killed and another 12 have been injured," Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Raman Singh told reporters.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh roundly condemned the attack.
"Words are not enough to condemn the brutal and inhuman attack by anti-national elements in Sukma," Modi tweeted, while Singh called it an act of cowardice and a "dastardly act" of violence. Singh is leaving for Chhattisgarh for an assessment of the situation.
"The Naxals have carried out the attack by putting innocent villagers as human shields," Singh told reporters in Lucknow.
A joint squad of CRPF, its elite battalion-CoBRA (Compact Battalion for Resolute Action) and district force was attacked by a large group of armed rebels in the dense forests in insurgency-hit South Bastar when they were returning to their camp after combing and area domination operations over several days in the Chintagufa region, about 450 km from here, a senior police official said.
The official said rebels opened indiscriminate firing on the security patrol in the forests between Dornapal and Chintalnar villages when they were cordoning off Kasalpada forest leaving 13 of them dead on the spot.
"Two officers a Deputy Commandant and an Assistant Commandant are among 13 CRPF men killed in the ambush," Chhattisgarh's Additional Director General of Police RK Vij informed. The Deputy Commandant and Assistant Commandant were identified as B S Verma and Rajesh Kapuriya.
The attack took place in the same base region of outlawed CPI (Maoist) where 76 troopers were massacred in 2010.
Subsequently, security personnel launched retaliatory attack and the encounter lasted for around several hours following which rebels fled to the core forest area, a senior police official said.
"As per the inputs, Naxals have also suffered causalities in the exchange of fire and at least eight cadres were gunned down," the official claimed, adding that, however, the bodies of killed ultras have not been recovered.
Soon after the incident, reinforcements were rushed to the spot.
Five CRPF personnel were injured on November 21 in the same area in an encounter with Maoists who also attacked an IAF helicopter. An IAF commando was also injured.
The attack came at a time when a National Security Advisory Board (NSAB) delegation headed by former foreign secretary and chairman Shyam Saran is on a three-day visit to the state from yesterday. It visited Bastar and Dantewada today and met senior officials there.