76 security men killed by Naxals in Chhattisgarh

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Raipur:  In the country's worst Maoist attack ever, at least 75 Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) and a state police personnel were killed in an ambush on Tuesday, in the thick Mukrana forests of Chhattisgarh's Dantewada district. The dead include a Deputy and an Assistant Commandant of the CRPF, and a head constable of the district police. (Watch: We won't be deterred by Naxal attack: Raman Singh)

The CRPF party, returning after a three-day anti-Maoist operation, were taking a break at around 6 am after travelling all night, when they were ambushed by up to 1,000 Maoists positioned on neighbouring hill top. The Naxals - aware of the CRPF movement - executed their attack with fierce precision, giving the jawans no chance to react. They blew up an anti-landmine vehicle and then began firing indiscriminately. The shocked and exhausted jawans weren't able to follow standard operating procedures like checking the road for landmines, and were massacred within minutes. The Naxals also managed to loot all the weapons that the CRPF team had.

Home Secretary G K Pillai admitted that "there was some failure" and that "we shouldn't have lost so many lives." "Initial reports suggest that the Naxals used pressure bombs," Pillai said, adding, "One rescue helicopter too came under Naxal fire, but we have managed to bring back seven personnel injured in the attack."

Pillai also said: "Our resolve against the Naxals strengthened further. We will give them a firmer reply. But as of now, there is no need to use air power against the Naxals."

Expressing shock over the brutal attack, Home Minister P Chidambaram too said something must have gone "drastically wrong." "The casualty is very high and I am deeply shocked at the loss of lives....This shows the savage nature of CPI (Maoist) and the brutality and the savagery they are capable of," he said. (Watch: Something went very wrong: Chidambaram)

Chidambaram also briefed Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on the phone, ahead of a meeting at the latter's 7 Race Course Road residence. The chiefs of the Army, Navy and Air Force also attended. (Watch: Govt must stop Operation Green Hunt: Naxal sympathiser)

CRPF Special Director General Vijay Raman, who is also the Commander of the Anti-Naxal Task Force, is on way to the forest area. Additional reinforcements have already been sent and search operations are on in the area. Helicopters have been pressed into service to evacuate the injured and bring back the bodies, Chhattisgarh Director General of Police Viswa Ranjan said.

The attack comes two days after Maoists triggered a landmine blast in Orissa's Koraput district, killing 11 security personnel of the elite anti-Naxal Special Operations Group. (Read: Chronology of major Naxal attacks)

On February 15, 24 personnel of Eastern Frontier Rifles were killed in a Maoist attack on their camp in West Bengal's West Midnapore district.

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