Blaming the “hostile terrain” for allowing the Maoists to ambush security personnel, the Chhattisgarh Police had said the force targeted Tuesday fought “a very thick battle” but finally yielded to the “dominant position” of the rebels, resulting in 15 men being killed.
But facts on the ground contradict those claims.
There is no hill on one side of the road or a deep ditch on the other side of the ambush spot near Tahkawada village in Sukma as claimed by police. Clear fields stretch on both sides for a good distance before the hills begin.
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The Maoists obviously did not fire from the hill but took positions along farmlands, just metres off the national highway. Policemen engaged in search operations at the site Wednesday confirmed this.
The ill-fated team of 45 personnel, comprising men from the CRPF and Chhattisgarh Police, had left Tongpal police station Tuesday morning and headed north when it was attacked after covering nearly 3 km.
Besides the 15 personnel, a villager was also killed in the biggest attack on security forces in three years.
While the police claimed the area was regularly sanitised as road construction work was on and forces were deployed to protect the workers, the Maoists had laid several IEDs on the road, and wires of some were still seen.
In fact, the road was being repaired at the instance of security forces which recently set up several camps in the region.
Officers are tight-lipped about the number of rounds fired by the police. But forces present at the spot said the resistance was negligible.
In a preliminary report submitted to the Union home ministry, the CRPF has refrained from blaming its jawans over what is thought to be flouting standard operating procedures leading to the ambush.
CRPF DG Dilip Trivedi told The Indian Express the men were killed not because they did not follow the SOP but because “they were outnumbered by the group of Maoists who could be somewhere around 400”.
“There was no question of SOPs not being followed. They are just general guidelines. Ultimately it is the field commander who has to take the decision on the ground. The 15 men who were killed put up a great fight for almost an hour. One or two of the jawans in the first line of defence were killed instantly but the others engaged with the Maoists for almost an hour,” Trivedi said.
The DG said the area was a Maoist stronghold and there were regular inputs about their movement there. – with inputs from Vijaita Singh, New Delhi