Soldier taken hostage by Maoists after ambush in Chhattisgarh

Rakeshwar Singh Manhas, a resident of Jammu, spent over 100 hours in captivity.

A commando kidnapped by Maoist rebels after a deadly meeting in Chhattisgarh on Saturday, in which 22 soldiers were killed and 31 wounded, has been released after more than 100 hours in captivity, the state government said Thursday.

Rakeshwar Singh Manhas of the 210th Commando Battalion for the Resolute Action Division (CoBRA) was taken hostage by the Maoists following the shooting that lasted nearly three hours in a rebel stronghold in Bijapur district.

He was released by the Maoists after a team of two prominent figures, including one from the tribal community, was appointed by the state government to secure his release, officials said.

The jawan who is from Jammu is brought to the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) Tarrem camp in Bijapur, a senior paramilitary officer said.

“Today is the happiest day of my life. I have always hoped for his return,” said Meenu, wife of Mr. Manhas, quoted by the ANI news agency. She and her daughter had made an emotional appeal for her video release.

In the deadliest ambush of its kind in four years, some 2,000 security personnel were searching for a Maoist rebel leader in the Bijapur district of Chhattisgarh state on Saturday when some of the between them were attacked.

The rebels looted weapons, ammunition, uniforms and shoes from the security forces which were killed.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted that “the sacrifices of the brave martyrs will never be forgotten”, while Home Secretary Amit Shah wrote on Twitter that India “will continue our fight against these enemies of peace and progress”.

The encounter was the worst for Indian security forces fighting far-left guerrillas since 2017, when 25 police commandos were killed in an attack.

Seventeen policemen from a commando patrol were killed in an attack by more than 300 armed rebels in Chhattisgarh in March last year.

Sixteen commandos were also killed in the western state of Maharashtra on the eve of elections in India in 2019, in a bomb attack blamed on the Maoists.

Maoists – who say they are fighting for rural people and the poor – have been fighting government forces in eastern India since the 1960s.

Thousands of people have been killed in the fighting.