At least 25 jawans of the Central Reserve Police Force died after an encounter with Maoists in Chhattisgarh’s Sukma district on Monday, according to ANI. Six others were injured in the attack, which was carried out while the troops were guarding workers constructing a road in the Burkapal-Chintagufa area of the Bastar region, which is a Maoist hotbed.

A CRPF officer told PTI that seven to eight jawas were still missing. “We have yet to account for all the personnel,” the officer said. The troops were part of a group of 90 who were protecting the road workers. The Naxalites are also believed to have looted their weapons, ANI reported.

One of the injured jawans, Sher Mohammed, told reporters from an ambulance that the insurgents had first sent villagers to trace their location, after which nearly 300 of them had attacked the CRPF party.

“The Naxalites fired at a patrolling party of the CRPF near Burkapal village, leaving six personnel injured,” Chhattisgarh Police Special Director General (Anti-Naxal operations) DM Awasthi told PTI. The encounter took place around 12.30 pm, and the injured soldiers have been airlifted to hospitals Raipur and Jagdalpur.

The personnel were from the 74 battalion of the parliamentary force. One of the troops has been identified as Inspector Raghuvir Singh, The Hindu reported. Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Raman Singh held an emergency meeting after the attack and also visited the injured soldiers in Raipur.

Home Affairs Minister Rajnath Singh said he was “extremely pained” to hear about the CRPF troops’ deaths. “My tributes to the martyrs and condolences to their families,” he said, adding that he had spoken with Minister of State for Home Affairs Hansraj Ahir, who will visit Raipur later in the day. Singh has briefed Prime Minister Narendra Modi about the attack and will visit Raipur on Friday.

Inspector General of Bastar Vivekanand Sinha and Deputy Inspector General Sunderraj are also headed to Sukma, along with the CRPF chief.

Modi said the country was proud of the valour of the CRPF soldiers. “The sacrifice of the martyrs will not go in vain. Condolences to their families. May those injured in today’s attack in Chhattisgarh recover at the earliest,” he said on Twitter. Union minister Venkaiah Naidu called it a case of “mindless killing” and said, “My deep condolences to the bereaved families. These sacrifices shall not be in vain.”

This was the worst Maoist attack on Indian security forces in Chhattisgarh since April 6, 2010, when 76 CRPF soldiers were killed in an attack in Dantewada district. On March 11 this year, a dozen CRPF soldiers were killed in an attack by Maoist fighters in Sukma. They belonged to the 219 battalion. These troops, too, had been taking part in a road-opening exercise. The Chhattisgarh Police had said the Naxalite attack had been planned and executed with “deadly accuracy”, and that the insurgents had used locally-made mortars, tiffin bombs, and arrows with explosives attached to their heads.