ISLAMABAD   -  At least 22 Indian security personnel were killed, 32 injured and one troop was reportedly missing in a four-hour-long encounter with Maoists that took place on Saturday afternoon near Jonaguda village which falls under Jagargunda police station area (in Sukma) in Chhattisgarh. 

 According to Times of India on Friday night, separate joint teams of security forces, comprising over 2,000 personnel, launched a major anti-Maoists operation from Bijapur and Sukma districts in the South Bastar forests, considered as the Maoist stronghold.

 Personnel belonging to the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), its elite unit CoBRA (Commando Battalion for Resolute Action), the District Reserve Guard (DRG) and the Special Task Force (STF) were involved in the operation launched from five places - Tarrem, Usoor and Pamed (in Bijapur), and Minpa and Narsapuram (in Sukma).

 When the patrolling team, that was dispatched from Tarrem, was advancing through a forest near Jonaguda, located around 500 km from the state capital Raipur, it was ambushed by cadres of the PLGA (Peoples’ Liberation Guerilla Army) battalion of Maoists, leading to the gun-battle, reported PTI. 

 According to initial reports, five security personnel were reported as killed and 30 others sustained injuries in the gunfight. Several other security personnel were reported to be missing. 

 A senior police officer from Bastar said, “chances of survival of missing jawans are slim, but we are hopeful of finding them alive”.

 Maoists have reportedly suffered a huge loss in the gunfight, but the body of only one woman maoists could be recovered from the spot amid the heavy exchange of fire.

 According to AlJazeera, the Maoist rebels, inspired by Chinese revolutionary leader Mao Zedong, have been fighting the Indian government for more than 40 years, in a conflict that has killed tens of thousands of people.

 More than 10,000 have been killed since the year 2000, according to data from the South Asia Terrorism Portal.

The rebels claim to defend the rights of indigenous tribes and other marginalised groups, while the government calls them India’s biggest internal security threat.

The Maoists, also known as Naxalites because their left-wing rebellion began in 1967 

in the Naxalbari village of the eastern West Bengal state, have ambushed police, 

destroyed government offices and abducted officials. 

They have also blown up train tracks, attacked prisons to free their comrades and stolen weapons from police and paramilitary warehouses to arm themselves.

Last month, a roadside bomb killed at least four policemen and wounded 14 in Narayanpur district of Chhattisgarh state as they were returning from an anti-Maoist operation.\867