M A I N   N E W S

Chhattisgarh bloodbath
Naxals kill 55 cops

Jagdalpur, March 15
At least 55 security personnel were killed when armed Maoists stormed a police camp at Ranibodli in Dantewada district in south Bastar in the wee hours today in the fiercest attack of its kind in Chhattisgarh.

Police sources confirmed the deaths of 39 special police officers (SPOs) and 16 constables of the Chhattisgarh Armed Force (CAF), saying that 11 others had sustained serious burn injuries as the rebels used petrol bombs during the raid. Reports said the Maoists had also looted three AK-47 assault rifles, one Insas rifle, three self-loading rifles and a number of 303 rifles from the camp, which was housed in an ashram school building.

The other portion of the ashram school was being used to house 28 girl children, who had a narrow escape during the Naxalite attack. An injured constable, who was brought to Jagdalpur for treatment told UNI that the Naxalites had used a generator to light up the area before hurling grenades and petrol bombs to the police camp.

Leader of the opposition Mahendra Karma, director-general of state police Om Prakash Rathor, inspector-general of police (Bastar range) R. K. Vij and other senior civil and police officials have reached the spot.

Chief Minister Raman Singh made a suo motu statement in the Assembly and quoted preliminary reports to confirm 49 deaths and injuries to 12 others. He strongly condemned the violence.

In New Delhi, Home Minister Shivraj Patil denounced the Naxal attack and assured the Chhattisgarh Government of all required help for rescue and combing operations. Home ministry sources said Patil spoke to the Chhattisgarh Chief Minister after the incident.

Senior home ministry officials have been in touch with senior officials of the Chhattisgarh Government following the pre-dawn attack.

"A close watch is being kept on the situation," the sources said, adding that a helicopter had been sent from Delhi to assist the state government in rescue operations.

About 400 rebels launched the attack with petrol bombs and other explosives followed with a heavy volume of gunfire. Most of the victims were asleep when the attack occurred.

Official sources said eight SPOs and four CAF personnel, including a company commander, were injured in the attack. They were given first-aid at a hospital at Kotru and were being shifted to a hospital at Bijapur.

Ever since the Naxalites stepped up violence in the tribal Bastar region, special police officers (SPOs) the local youth appointed on honorarium basis under the provisions of Police Act--have been a soft target of the Maoists. Senior police officers rushed to the site by helicopter, the sources said. UNI



HOME PAGE | Punjab | Haryana | Jammu & Kashmir | Himachal Pradesh | Regional Briefs | Nation | Opinions |
| Business | Sports | World | Mailbag | Chandigarh | Ludhiana | Delhi |
| Calendar | Weather | Archive | Subscribe | Suggestion | E-mail |