"It was hard to tell how many Maoists were there," said Mahendra Kumar, who is recovering after surgery in a hospital in Raipur, where he was brought by an Indian Air Force chopper from Sukma, 400 km away.
Twenty-five men of the CRPF or Central Reserve Police Force were killed in the ambush by hundreds of Maoists at an area which was being sanitized for a road project. A team of 98 CRPF jawans were in the area, and most were about to have lunch when they were attacked.
"There must have been 100-200 attackers, but we could see only 35-40," said the soldier.
"We were doing road construction work. There was firing from the left side. We instantly covered the civilian workers and hid them."
The Maoists in black gear, he said, "fired from all sides...from the village, outside it, from the left of the road and its right."
"I fired using an INSAS rifle. We also fired back and four or five Naxals were injured," Mahendra Kumar said.
The encounter went on for two-three hours and 24 lost their lives on the spot. Another soldier died on the way to hospital.
Home Minister Rajnath Singh has called it "cold-blooded murder" and an act of desperation by Maoists who want to stop development work. "They will not succeed in their evil designs," he said.
This is the deadliest Maoist attack in seven years.
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