At least 10 paramilitary troops belonging to an elite unit have been killed in an explosion in the eastern Indian state of Bihar. Several others were also injured when an improvised explosive device (IED) went off.
The blast took place when the troops were on a combing operation to flush out rebel Maoists in a forest region. Gunfire started as soon as the soldiers of the Cobra (Commando Battalion for Resolute Action) unit were killed in the explosion. Local reports suggest there have been multiple explosions in the region without causing casualties.
The operation against the rebels is still continuing on Tuesday, 19 July, several hours after the explosion. Four rebels have also been killed so far.
"At least 10 CRPF [Central Reserve Police Force] commandos were killed and three injured in the encounter... a massive manhunt has been launched by the paramilitary and State police forces in the area to nab the Naxals," said Sunil Kumar, Additional Director-General of Police from Bihar, according to the daily The Hindu. The local police were also part of the operation led by the paramilitary troops.
Maoist rebels, who have been involved in an armed insurgency against the state for several decades, control several parts, not just in Bihar but also other states in the north-east and central India. The rebels claim fighting for the rights of the rural population and tribal groups, while their revolt has been a constant cause of concern for the federal administration over the years.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi expressed condolences for the deaths of the soldiers and the Bihar state government has announced cash compensation for the victims' families.