Dantewada (Chhattisgarh), March 30 (IANS) Seven CRPF troopers were killed on Wednesday when Maoists used hidden explosives to destroy their truck in a remote part of Chhattisgarh, police said.
The impact of the improvised explosive device used in the attack was so powerful that it sent the troopers' vehicle flying several feet high in the air and created a huge crater.
The seven Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) men were killed instantly, their bodies blown apart by the blast on a newly-repaired road at Malewara in Dantewada district, about 400 km south of capital Raipur. Two other troopers were injured in the blast.
It was the biggest attack by the Maoists in Chhattisgarh in recent months.
The dead security personnel in civilian clothes were returning to their base after a holiday, police officials said.
"It was a massive blast. The vehicle was thrown several feet up in the air and it landed on the ground in four pieces," Director General of Police D.M. Awasthi told the media.
The CRPF personnel belonged to the 230th battalion. They were identified as Assistant Sub-Inspector D. Vijay Raj, Head Constable Pradeep Tirkey and Constables Ranjan Das, Devendra Chaurasia, Nana Uday Singh, Roop Narayan Das and Mritunjay Mukherjee.
Police officials who rushed to the spot within 45-50 minutes said the deceased were unarmed.
Local tribals, who were the first to arrive at the blast site and tipped off the police about the incident, said the bodies of the CRPF men were mutilated beyond recognition and their body parts were found strewn several metres from the attack site.
Governor Balramji Das Tandon dubbed the Maoist action "cowardly" and conveyed his condolence over the deaths of the CRPF men. He also prayed for the speedy recovery of the injured troopers.
Chief Minister Raman Singh denounced the killings and called it "a clear sign of frustration among the Maoists who are feeling the heat of increased police presence in their strongholds".
"I salute the supreme sacrifice of the seven CRPF men. The attack has strengthened my resolve to weed out Maoism from the state," he said in Raipur.
Initial probe indicated that five to nine Maoists executed the blast for which over 40 kg explosives could have been used to rattle the minitruck.
Later, dozens of heavily armed paramilitary troopers launched an operation to track down the insurgents who reportedly slipped into the nearby forests after the bloodbath.
Officials at the Chhattisgarh Police headquarters here dubbed the attack "a classic case of failed intelligence network" in the Maoist heartland of Bastar, which includes Dantewada district.
Home Minister Ajay Chandrakar presided over an emergency meeting of top police and home department officials in Raipur to assess the situation in the wake of deadly attack.