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CPI-M ambush underlines ongoing high operational capabilities in India's Chhattisgarh state

On 21 March, 17 security forces personnel were killed and 14 others were wounded when Communist Party of India-Maoist (CPI-M) militants conducted an ambush on a contingent of approximately 450 members of the District Reserve Guard (DRG), the Special Task Force (STF), and the Commando Battalion for Resolute Action (COBRA) of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) who were conducting a counter-terrorism operation in the Kasalpad area of Sukma district in India’s Chhattisgarh state. This large group of security forces had been mobilised earlier that day upon receiving intelligence pertaining to the sizeable gathering of CPI-M militants in the forests of Kasalpad, an area known for its high concentration of militants. The aim of the operation was to conduct a surprise assault on the congregation of militants, thereby weakening the CPI-M’s presence in the area.

However, the militants obtained intelligence of the operation and therefore allowed the security forces to penetrate deep into the forested area without making their presence known. The security forces, upon failing to sight or engage any militants, began returning to base in two groups of unequal size. At around 1400 hours, the smaller group of approximately 100 personnel was ambushed by a force of approximately 350 CPI-M militants who were positioned on an overlooking hillock, leading to a two-hour armed clash, after which the militants seized at least 12 AK-series assault rifles from fallen security personnel. Notably, a smaller group of militants engaged the larger contingent of security forces with light small-arms fire, pinning them in position between three and four kilometres from the other group, thereby negating the possibility of any reinforcement manoeuvre. Reports stated that 12 of those killed were DRG personnel, and five were from the STF.

This chart shows the Indian states in which the CPI-M has conducted the majority of its attacks in the previous five years, and highlights how often militants perpetrate attacks in Chhattisgarh relative to other states. (Jane’s)
This map shows the concentration of CPI-M attacks around southern Chhattisgarh state (Jane’s)

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