“Maoists attacked a team of commandos travelling in a private vehicle to inspect an earlier attack. So far 16 men have died,” an official at police headquarters in Maharashtra told news agency AFP. “More teams have been sent to site for rescue and combat operations,” said the officer, who did not want to give his name.
The blast near Gadchirli’s Jambhumpada village took place hours after Maoists torched 25 vehicles at a road construction site in Kurkheda of Gadchiroli at around 3:30 am.
“Strongly condemn the despicable attack on our security personnel in Gadchiroli, Maharashtra. I salute all the brave personnel. Their sacrifices will never be forgotten. My thoughts & solidarity are with the bereaved families. The perpetrators of such violence will not be spared,” PM Modi tweeted.
Home Minister Rajnath Singh spoke to Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis about the incident. “We are providing all assistance needed by the state government. MHA is in constant touch with the state administration,” he tweeted, condoling the deaths.
At around 3:30 am, Maoists had torched vehicles, which were parked along the road in Kurkheda area, using kerosene and diesel, police officer Shailesh Balkawade said.
Over two weeks ago, another IED blast was set off near a polling booth in Gadchiroli on April 11, during the first phase of the national election. No one was injured in the incident. A day before that, a Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) trooper was critically injured in an IED blast in Gadchiroli.
Today’s Maoist attack comes on a day when Maharashtra is celebrating its foundation day. The Maoists were in the final stages of observing a week-long protest to mark the first anniversary of 40 of their members who were gunned down by security forces on April 22 last year.