Shoot-at-sight orders have been issued to security forces deployed in Maoist-hit areas after a "serious and new" threat of possession and operation of drones by the terrorists came to light recently, officials said on Sunday.
The latest directive by a unified command of security and intelligence agencies at the centre comes in the wake of an incident where drones or unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) were seen hovering over a strategically important CRPF camp in Chhattisgarh's Sukma, south Bastar region.
"Small red and white light emitting drones were seen flying near the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) camp in Kistaram and Pallodi last month at least four times in three days," sources said.
The drones emitted a "low whizzing sound" that drew attention of camp guards after which offensive position was taken by troops and an alert sounded across all the nearby camps, anticipating possible trouble by Maoists.
Sources said the mini-UAVs soon disappeared from the sky above the CRPF camps before they could be shot down.
The development led intelligence agencies to a vendor in Mumbai, who is suspected to have sold the drones to some unidentified people, possibly Maoists. Inquiries in this context are going on, sources said.
The security agencies are particularly concerned as the two camps where these drones were spotted are located deep inside the Maoist hotbed, do not have proper road connectivity and see regular movements of armed Maoists. The area shares border with Odisha, Maharashtra and leads to the jungle corridor of Andhra Pradesh.
"This development is a serious concern. Possession and operation of drones by Maoists is a new challenge which has been anticipated by security agencies for long. The issue has now surfaced," a top-ranking security official said.
He said "shoot-at-sight orders have been issued to security forces all across the LWE (Leftwing Extremism) affected states to take down such rogue drones or UAVs being operated by Maoists."
A preliminary analysis of the incident estimates that the drones that were spotted were basic variants of a four-legged UAV that is controlled from the ground using a remote control, and is used in capturing videos and photos of social events like wedding and public gatherings.
The agencies suspect Maoist cadres have recently acquired these mini drones to conduct reconnaissance of security forces camps, monitor activities inside and even detect their movements near their hideouts.
"Till the time we have a uniform policy on countering enemy drones, it has been decided to shoot down such objects so that lives and activities of security personnel are not at risk," the official said.