(MENAFN - Gulf Times) Nine paramilitary soldiers were killed and two more injured when Maoist rebels blew up their vehicle in the central state of Chhattisgarh yesterday, police said.
The attack, which is said to have targeted an anti-landmine vehicle in which troopers of the paramilitary Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) were travelling, occurred in the Sukma district.
The blast was followed by a heavy exchange of fire between the troopers and the Maoists, according to D M Awasthi, a senior police officer in charge of counter-insurgency operations in the region.
'Nine CRPF personnel have been martyred in the attack. Sukma is a stronghold of the militants where security forces have repeatedly come under attack, Awasthi told reporters.
The injured were airlifted to state capital Raipur for treatment.
More forces were dispatched to the region to bolster counter-insurgency operations, police said.
CRPF's Deputy Inspector General M Dinakaran said a shootout took place between the troopers and the rebels in Sukma around 8am but the Maoists fled after the CRPF retaliated.
'Again at 12.30pm the Maoists targeted another team of 212 CRPF Battalion. Our 11 troopers were travelling in an anti-landmine vehicle when the Maoist blew it up, Dinakaran said.
The CRPF personnel were on routine patrolling and going towards a newly-opened post in Palodi in Kishtaram when the Maoists set off the explosives.
The attack comes days after security forces killed 10 suspected Maoist rebels in the same state.
Federal Home Minister Rajnath Singh called yesterday's attack 'deeply distressing and expressed condolences to the families of the slain troopers.
Meanwhile, Congress president Rahul Gandhi said the attack reflected the deteriorating internal security situation under Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government.
'The Maoist attack in Sukma is tragic. It reflects a deteriorating internal security situation due to flawed policies, Gandhi tweeted.
'My condolences to the families of those killed. To those who have been injured, I wish a speedy recovery, he added.
The Congress also said the attack exposed the hollow the claims of the government in controlling the insurgency was.
'Modi had sold the ‘national security' plank hard to attain power, but in the past four years, we have only witnessed a precarious security situation in the country, said Congress spokesman Randeep Singh Surjewala, adding that the national security situation was 'a direct consequence of the government's aimless, irresolute and inconsistent polices.
West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee also expressed deep sadness and extended her condolences to their families.
Chhattisgarh is among the states worst affected by the left-wing insurgents.
Meanwhile, four Maoist guerrillas were arrested yesterday and a small bomb-making factory unearthed in two separate cases in Jharkhand, police said.
Police and the CRPF personnel arrested the four rebels in a joint operation in Palamu district.
The bomb-making factory was unearthed in Pirtand forest in Giridih district on the basis of information given by arrested Maoist commander Sunil Manjhi, who is in a six-day police remand.
Police seized 103 improvised explosive devices, a lathe, syringes, explosives and chemicals.
The Maoists, who reject parliamentary democracy, say their armed rebellion is to secure the rights of the poor and marginalised.
According to the South Asia Terrorism Portal more than 7,700 people, including civilians, militants and security personnel, have been killed in Maoist-related violence in India since 2005.
Critics say government attempts to end the revolt through tough offensives are doomed to fail and that the real solution is better governance and development of the region.