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The blast followed Maoists torching 25 vehicles of a road construction firm in Kurkheda sub-district of Gadchiroli, Maharashtra earlier in the day

In one of the worst retaliatory attacks on the anti-naxal security forces, Maoist insurgents blew up an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) killing 15 jawans and a civilian in Maharashtra’s Gadchiroli district on Wednesday afternoon.

A unit of the Quick Response Team (QRT) of the Gadchiroli police was on its way to provide reinforcements to the police station in Kurkheda taluka, nearly 60 km north of Gadchiroli, when the blast was triggered near Lendali Nullah, in Jamburkheda village, six kilometres from the police station.

Maharashtra police said security had been beefed up in the taluka following an attack the previous night in which naxals had torched 36 vehicles meant to assist road construction work in the Dadpur village.

The latest ambush on police seems to be in retaliation for the killing of two senior women cadre of the rebels, Manku Norate and Manu Dasru, by the anti-naxal forces during an encounter in the forests of Etapalli taluka, South Gadchiroli, on April 27.

The North/South Gadchiroli Division Committee CPI (Maoist) had put up posters condemning the killing, while observing the week as the first anniversary of the killing of nearly 40 ‘comrades’ in an encounter by security forces last year.

The insurgents have been targeting the ongoing Lok Sabha elections and had triggered as many as four IED blasts leading up to the polls on April 11, injuring six commandos of the Gadchiroli police.

A twin blast outside booth 115 of Gatta village, South Gadchiroli on April 10 had raised the concerns of the security forces after the first-time successful use of a Remote Controlled Improvised Device (RCID) in the red zone, a police source said.

“This was a dastardly attack and we will avenge the martyrdom of our jawans at an appropriate time of our choosing. At this point, it is not correct to speculate if this was a retaliation to last year’s attack or the killing of the two women cadre (naxals),” said Maharashtra Director General of Police (DGP) Subodh Kumar Jaiswal.

Six of the slain jawans were from Gadchiroli, three from Bhandara, two from Buldhana, and one each from Nagpur, Yavatmal, Hingoli, and Beed.

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