Seven CRPF men were killed on Wednesday in a deadly landmine blast carried out by Naxals that also left a massive four-feet deep crater on the road in the worst Maoist violence-affected Dantewada district of Chhattisgarh.
Officials said the attack occurred near the Basaras-Kuakonda axis in Melawada village when a Tata-709 mini-truck of the force went over a landmine at about 4 PM. The troops, most of whom had just returned from leave, were going to their nearby camp.
The landmine was cleverly hidden and planted by Maoists under the 'black top or puccka' road as troops travelled as part of a three-vehicle convoy.
"The troops were moving form one camp to the other when the huge blast hit their vehicle," CRPF Director General K Durga Prasad told PTI.
A senior official, however, ruled out looting of any weapons of the jawans, who were not in their combat uniforms, as most of them had had just come back from leave.
"It is estimated that almost 20 kg of explosives was used to blow off the vehicle. At least three bodies have been badly charred and dismembered and hence their identification will take time," the official said.
A Court of Inquiry has been ordered by the force into the incident and to find out under what circumstances the troops were travelling in a four-wheeler, banned for force personnel in these areas due to the threat of hidden Improvised Explosive Devices, and why were they not carrying arms as it is mandatory for them while even moving for non-operational tasks.
The vehicle and the troops were blown to smithereens and a four-feet crater has been created at the site where the blast took place, the official said.
They said the troops belonged to the 230th battalion of the force deployed in south Bastar area for anti-Naxal operations.
The squad travelling in the ill-fated vehicle was led by a Assistant Sub-Inspector-rank officer Vijay Raj along with his juniors.
Chhattisgarh's acting Home Minister Ajay Chandrakar also informed the state Assembly that seven security personnel were killed in the Naxal attack.
The state has witnessed a rise in attacks on security forces this year as recently three CRPF commandos were killed and 14 hurt in Chhattisgarh on March 2. On March 11 a CRPF jawan was killed and four injured while two BSF men were killed in Kanker on March 12.
The dead were identified as Assistant Sub-Inspector D Bijay Raj, head constable Pradeep Tirky, constables- Roop Narayan Das, Devendra Chourasia, Ranjan Das, Nana Uday Singh (driver) and J Rajendran, all belonged to CRPF's 230 battalion, he said.
Special Director General of Police (anti-naxal operations) D M Awasthi told PTI that they died on the spot.
The spot is about 26 km from the district headquarters of Dantewada and 450 km from the state capital Raipur.
A civilian vehicle was passing through the route when the incident occurred.
Those civilians only informed the police about the incident following which Dantewada Superintendent of Police Kamlochan Kashyap reached the spot along with reinforcement and evacuated the bodies to Dantewada district headquarter, he said.
Meanwhile, a CRPF official ruled out the violation of Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) by security forces and said naxals may have kept a watch on the vehicle right from the battalion headquarter at Nerli.
"The vehicle with as many as 9 CRPF personnel onboard left from Nerli.
"Of them, three jawans alighted at Renganar company camp of the paramilitary while one other sat on the vehicle there," the paramilitary official said.
"As per preliminary information, rebels probably belonging to Darbha division of Maoist have executed the incident.
"They may have kept a watch on their movement right from Nerli," he said adding more details are being taken in this connection.
Image: Site where the IED blast took place in Dantewada. Photograph: ANI_News/Twitter