Less than 24 hours before polling begins in Bastar constituency, three constables of the elite CoBRA force were killed and six security personnel were injured in two Maoist attacks on Wednesday morning. The Maoists also looted their weapons, including an Israel-made X-95 assault rifle.
The first incident took place at around 9:30 am. Bastar IG A D Gautam said Maoists attacked a CoBRA team of nearly 70 personnel, between Chintagufa and Burkapal, when they were returning after escorting a polling team to a polling booth. Three CoBRA constables, Narsimha, A Ghosh and Ranbeer Singh, were killed, and three personnel, including Deputy Commandant Rakesh Singh. were injured.
Three constables were killed when they were returning from poll duty, our men fought well. We expect some casualty of Maoists, said R K Vij ADG (Naxal Ops).
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Among other weapons, satellite phone and bulletproof jackets, the Maoists snatched an X-95 assault rifle,a highly sophisticated weapon used by CoBRA personnel.
In another incident, three CRPF personnel were injured in an IED blast in Gangalur area of Bijapur district, about 150 km away from the first attack site. Meanwhile, Narayanpur police seized two tiffin bombs of five kilograms each.
Asked about the possibility of securing the elections, DGP A N Upadhyaya said. This problem has been going on for the last 40 years, no guarantee can be given for this.
Earlier, state police and CRPF officers had said the Maoists had conducted recce of certain police camps and were likely to launch smaller attacks instead of a major ambush.
While 564 companies of additional paramilitary forces were deployed in Bastar during the Assembly polls last year, only 143 additional companies have been deployed for the Lok Sabha elections. Officials said this was not enough, but noted that with elections being held across the country, they could not have got more personnel.
Still, Bastar remains among the most well guarded constituencies. As many as 238 polling booths have been shifted from interior areas to safer zones. Since most areas are inaccessible or fraught with risk, polling officials will use choppers to reach 72 booths. Of the total 1,797 booths, 682 have been declared hyper-sensitive, 564 sensitive and 94 politically sensitive. Video cameras have been installed in 58 sensitive booths.
Given the available forces, we have been able to contain Maoists so far. We are hopeful that we will secure the polls and inculcate confidence among people, said Gautam.
Bastar has traditionally seen a triangular contest between the Congress, BJP and CPI. This year, however, AAP has made an entry with Soni Sori, a schoolteacher who was earlier arrested for alleged Maoist links.