The killing zone established, on both sides along the National Highway (NH) 30 near Tahakwada village in Sukma, by the Maoists to execute their ambush on Tuesday hardly resembled one. On both sides lay fields which gave way to the wilderness where there were distant high grounds. A closer look, a few paces off the NH, however revealed glimpses of the mayhem that played out on Tuesday morning, ending only when sixteen men were killed, three injured and multiple weapons looted in a span of merely sixty minutes.
That this ambush was carried out in broad daylight, merely nine kilometers away from the spot where in May last year the Congress state leadership was wiped out only further exposed the chinks in administration’s armour.
At 9am on Tuesday, the combined party of CRPF and local police left Tongpal Police Station, the last in Sukma district, for an area domination exercise along the NH. Minutes before this party could walk into the elaborate trap, Maoists moved to cut off the road for civilian traffic and reinforcements from the other end. This they achieved by ordering three truck drivers, at gunpoint, to park their vehicles on the NH to obstruct traffic flow. Taking the drivers aside, the insurgents set these trucks ablaze.
The insurgents were now firmly focused on the men steadily marching in.
Around 10am, having walked for nearly five kilometers along the National Highway (NH) 30, Central Reserve Police Force’s (CRPF) Inspector Subhash Chandra who was leading the 45-member strong party sensed something amiss. Before much could be done, the first round was fired by the insurgents from the east. Reflex dictated the ambushed team jumped on to the western side and sought cover to hit back. And then, minute by minute, the trapped personnel were made to realize that there was no hiding. So much so that the remainder of the 45-member team, despite firing 500 rounds, could not achieve much except rescuing three of the injured.
As for the intelligence available, a source on the ground said, “The warnings were not specific. Based on those warnings we conducted operations too but found no presence of the Maoists.”