At least 22 Indian security personnel were killed by Maoist fighters, in one of the bloodiest attacks by the extreme left-wing insurgent group this year, officials said on Sunday.
“We can confirm that 22 Indian force members have been killed by Maoist fighters,” said a senior government official in Raipur, the capital of mineral-rich Chhattisgarh.
Security personnel belonging to the Central Reserve Police Force’s elite CoBRA unit, the District Reserve Guard, and the Special Task Force were attacked on Saturday in the tribal-dominated Chhattisgarh state during an anti-insurgency operation.
They were killed in a gun battle that lasted for four hours in the border district of Sukma, 540km south of Raipur, Reuters reports.
Home Minister Amit Shah said the government will not tolerate such bloodshed and “a befitting response will be given to prevent such attacks”.
The Maoists, also known as Naxals, have waged an armed insurgency against the government for decades.
They claim to be fighting on behalf of India’s poorest, who have not benefited from a long economic boom in Asia’s third-largest economy.
Since 1967 the group, seen as the greatest threat to the country’s internal security, has gained control over huge areas in central and eastern India, establishing a so-called “red corridor”.
The militant guerrillas operate from dense forests, and their operations against the Indian administration and regular forces are shrouded in secrecy.
The group has not yet claimed responsibility for the latest attack.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi wrote on Twitter that the “sacrifices of the brave martyrs will never be forgotten. May the injured recover at the earliest.”
Last month, five policemen were killed and several others were injured in a blast in what police said was a Maoist strike targeting a bus carrying more than 20 security personnel.