Maoists killed nine personnel of the Central Reserve Police Force’s 212 battalion and injured two in the Kistaram region of Chhattisgarh’s Sukma district on Tuesday, PTI reported.

The security forces were carrying out search operations in the area when the rebels detonated three explosives and started firing on the paramilitary soldiers, The Hindu reported. The rebels, who had fired at the paramilitary force’s Cobra battalion earlier in the morning, reportedly blew up the mine-protected vehicle the soldiers were travelling in. The incident reportedly took place at 12.30 pm.

Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Raman Singh met the injured CRPF personnel in the hospital. “The incident happened in the area which is the hub of Naxalites,” Singh told reporters. “The CRPF and security forces had been trying to dominate the area. We had established our camp there and operations are being launched from there. It will not lower the morale of security forces.”

Prime Minister Narendra Modi expressed grief over the deaths of the CRPF personnel. “My thoughts are with the families and friends of the brave martyrs,” Modi said on Twitter. “The nation stands shoulder to shoulder with them in this hour of grief.”

Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh said he was praying for the speedy recovery of the injured jawans. “I spoke to the CRPF director general regarding the Sukma incident and asked him to leave for Chhattisgarh,” Singh tweeted.

The Congress blamed the Centre’s “aimless, irresolute and inconsistent policies” for the attack. “After demonetisation, Modi made boastful claims of ending terrorism and naxalism, but the facts tell a different story,” Congress spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala said in a statement. “There have been 23 major naxalite attacks after demonetisation in which 97 security personnel were martyred and 121 civilians killed.”

He said in Jammu and Kashmir, 53 major terror incidents had taken place since November 2016, when demonetisation was implemented. Ninety-nine security personnel and 64 civilians were killed in these attacks, he added.

“The BJP government – both at the Centre and in Chhattisgarh – has been totally lax and dismal in terms of policy or strategically dealing with Naxalism,” Surjewala said.

The incident comes a week after two Border Security Force personnel were killed in the state’s Rowghat area and a former police constable was shot dead in Sukma. The attacks on the security forces have gone up since a joint team of the Telangana and Chattisgarh Police killed 12 suspected Maoists in Dantewada district’s Pukari Kanker region on March 2.