A three-hour shootout in the Sukma of Chhattisgarh; 22 soldiers killed

A day after five jawans were killed in a violent shootout between security forces and Maoists in a Jonaguda forest in Chhattisgarh, a total of 17 bodies were found at the meeting site on Sunday. After Saturday’s meeting, 18 security personnel disappeared. As details of the meeting continue to emerge, it appears to be one of the biggest attacks on Indian security forces in recent years. Not much is known about whether the Maoists also suffered casualties or what kind of weapons they used against the security forces. But the possibility that this is a planned attack is not yet ruled out. A Maoist woman was reportedly killed.

Here’s what we know about the encounter:

What happened?

A shootout broke out on Saturday between security forces and the Naxals, which lasted three hours and five jawans were martyred. A day later, 17 bodies were found and the toll is expected to increase. Around 30 security personnel were injured. A female Maoist leader has been found dead.

After the meeting, Naxals looted more than two dozen weapons from security personnel, ANI news agency reported citing CRPF sources.

Where did the meeting take place?

Stronghold of the Maoists, the meeting took place in a forest near Jonaguda, which is located on the border of the district of Bastar, Bijapur and Sukma.

How did the meeting start?

On Friday evening, separate teams of security forces launched a massive anti-Naxal operation in the forests of South Bastar. According to reports, the security forces were receiving information about Madvi Hidma, a top Naxal leader linked to the Jhiram Ghati killings in 2013, in which more than 30 people, including top Chhattisgarh Congress leaders, were killed.

The joint operation was launched from five locations – Tarrem, Usoor and Pamed (Bijapur), and Minpa and Narsapuram (in Sukma).

The shooting took place between when the patrol team that was dispatched from Tarrem was inside the forest near Jonaguda. The cadres of the People’s Liberation Guerrilla Army battalion ambushed the team and there was heavy gunfire for hours.

It is not yet clear whether the denunciations were traps to lure security forces to the scene or whether the anti-Naxal operation actually stirred up one of the layers that protect Hidma. Hidma’s security blanket begins nearly a mile away. The senior Maoist leader at the time of the meeting could have been nearby, triggering heavy gunfire.