Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel on March 23 said that the sacrifices of security personnel killed in an encounter with Naxals in Sukma district will not go in vain and asured that ultras will be completely rooted out of the state.
He was speaking to reporters during the wreath laying ceremony at Sukma police lines for 17 police personnel who were killed in the encounter with Naxals in a forest near Minpa village on March 21.
"Our jawans fought bravely for hours with Naxals and sacrificed their lives. I am extremely proud of them. Their martyrdom will not go in vain, Baghel said.
"The fight will continue till Naxalism does not come to an end. Our jawans inflicted heavy casualties on Naxals during Saturdays fight. Although, we have lost our 17 men and suffered a huge loss, Naxals will be rooted out," he said.
Baghel said during his interaction with the injured jawans, they told him that several Naxals were gunned in the encounter.
Asked about the strategic failure to tackle Naxalism, Baghel said, "Neither there is a flaw in our strategy nor there was intelligence lapse. Based on the inputs of presence of Naxals, our jawans raided the place. But, Naxals were positioned on a hill and we (jawans) were on the ground."
"If we would have been on the hill, we could have done a greater damage to them. Our jawans fought bravely and I salute their valour and martyrdom," he said.
The chief minister said his government stands by the families of the martyred personnel and will extend all possible assistance to them.
Baghel later held a meeting with state Home Minister Tamradhwaj Sahu, senior security advisor in Union Home Ministry K Vijay Kumar, Chhattisgarh Director General of Police D M Awasthi and senior CRPF and police officials in Sukma to take stock of the security situation in the wake of the attack, one of the deadliest in the past three years.
On March 21, 17 police personnel were killed and 15 others injured during a nearly four-hour gun-battle with ultras in the forest of Minpa, a Maoist stronghold.
Among those killed, 12 personnel belonged to the District Reserve Guard (DRG), the frontline anti-Naxal force of the state police.
The remaining five deceased, including Platoon Commander Geetram Rathiya and Assistant Platoon Commander Narad Nishad, were from the Special Task Force (STF).
Of the 17 killed personnel, 10 were residents of different villages in Sukma.
According to police, Maoists' battalion no.1, led by its commander Hidma, and separate area committees - Konta, Kistaram and Jagargunda - were involved in the attack.
It was the first major attack on DRG personnel, who are called as "son of the soil" as they are recruited from among the local youth and Naxals who surrendered in Bastar division.