Kolkata, Feb 15 (PTI): At least 20 paramilitary jawans were killed in the biggest-ever Maoist attack in West Bengal when ultras overran their camp at Silda in West Midnapore after setting it on fire today, barely a week after Union Home Minister P Chidambaram’s meeting here to draw up a joint strategy to counter them.
"At least 20 jawans of Eastern Frontiers Rifles (EFR) have been killed in the attack at the Silda camp and the condition of two is stated to be very critical," district magistrate N S Nigam told PTI from Midnapore.
The Maoists launched another attack on a CRPF camp at Dharampur in the district tonight. A group of 40 armed Maoists attacked the camp around 8.30 pm in Lalgarh engaging the jawans in an exchange of fire.
Nigam said at least 100 Maoists armed with sophisticated weapons came on motorcycles and four-wheelers, exploded landmines near the Silda camp before barging inside with a volley of fire around 5.30 pm.
There were 51 EFR jawans and officers in the camp when the attack took place, sources said.
The attack took most of the jawans by surprise as they were either "whiling away their time in the camp or busy in the kitchen cooking", a senior police officer said.
Meanwhile, Maoist leader Kishenji claimed responsibility for the attack.
"We have attacked the camp and this is our answer to Chidambaram’s ’Operation Green Hunt’ and unless the Centre stops this inhuman military operation we are going to answer this way only," Kishenji told PTI from an undisclosed location.
"The Maoists engaged in an initial exchange of fire with the sentries at Silda camp who repulsed the attack, but in the next wave of attack the extremists outnumbered the jawans and barged into the camp setting it on fire," the senior officer said.
According to Nigam, the Maoists also planted landmines on the entire stretch of the road leading to the camp.
Night vision force with anti-landmine vehicles have been rushed to the camp from nearby Binpur, he said.
Kishenji, on the other hand, claimed there were at least 35 Eastern Frontier jawans who had been liquidated and they had looted sophisticated arms including AK-47, SLR and mortars from the camp which they set ablaze.
He did not give the number of Maoists who took part in the attack and threatened to repeat the attacks, if needed.
Chidambaram had a meeting here on February 9 to draw up a joint strategy to counter the Maoists in which chief ministers of West Bengal and Orissa, deputy chief ministers of Jharkhand and top officers from Bihar participated. PTI SAG PB SUN MD ZMN 02152156