Naxals today ambushed a patrol party and hit an air force helicopter which was evacuating security personnel after a gunbattle in the dense jungles of Sukma in Chhattisgarh, injuring six CRPF personnel and an IAF commando.
An encounter broke out when a squad of CRPF and state police was out for an operation in the Chintagufa area.
Officials said the Indian Air Force (IAF) chopper, which flew an evacuation sortie soon after the 3.30 PM incident, was also hit by bullets fired by Maoists.
"A total of seven security personnel have been injured. All have bullet injuries. The injured include six CRPF personnel and one IAF commando," a senior officer deployed in the anti-Naxal operations grid said.
When the five injured in the gunbattle were being carried to the IAF chopper, the Naxals opened fired at it. An IAF guard and a CRPF jawan accompanying his colleagues were hit by bullets.
CRPF Inspector General (Operations) in Delhi Zulfiquar Hasan told PTI that the encounter was "still on" and the forces had been undertaking an anti-Naxal operation in the area for the last six days.
The importance of the operation can be gauged from the fact that it was being led by CRPF's Chhattisgarh chief and IG H S Sidhu.
Officials said all the injured have been safely evacuated and have been sent to a hospital in Jagdalpur.
They said about half-a-dozen Naxal cadres have also been injured and the area has been cordoned off.
They said sending immediate reinforcements to the area would not be possible during the night.
"A good number of troops are already there in the area hence not much additional forces are required immediately," they said.
Vipin Kumar, Sub Inspector of CRPF's 150 battalion, constable Madhukar Rathore of the same unit, constables Chandrashekar and Manoj Kumar Gonde of 206 CoBRA battalion and constable Rupak Rawat, posted as the gunman of the IG and Surendra Bathi, constable of 150 battalion, were among the injured in the incident, the SP said.
The region is located around 450 km from state capital Raipur.
"The face-off occurred in the restive forests under Chintagufa police station limits when a joint squad of CRPF, its elite battalion-CoBRA (Compact Battalion for Resolute Action) and district force were carrying out an anti-Naxal operation this evening," Sukma Superintendent of Police D Shrawan told PTI.
"The rebels also opened fire on the Air Force chopper MI-17 when it was ascending from an undisclosed location in dense forests of Chintagufa to ferry the injured CRPF to Jagdalpur this evening," Additional Director General of Police (anti-Naxal operations) R K Vij said.
Flight gunner Sergeant M K Tiwari sustained bullet injuries on his leg in the incident, he added.