(Eds: Adding details) Bijapur, May 17 (PTI) Three persons were killed and another sustained injuries in an exchange of fire between Naxals and security forces during a protest by villagers in front of a newly set up camp of security personnel in a forest in Chhattisgarh's Sukma district on Monday, a police officer said.
It was yet to be ascertained whether the deceased were Naxals or civilians, he said, adding there was no casualty among the security personnel.
However, local villagers claimed at least nine people were killed and several others were injured in the incident.
'Since the past few days, residents from nearby villages were staging a protest in Silger, considered as a core area of Maoists along Sukma-Bijapur districts border, against the camp of security forces set up there on May 12,' Inspector General of Police (Bastar range) Sundarraj P told PTI.
Personnel belonging to the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) and state's security forces have been stationed in the camp set up to facilitate the road construction work underway there.
'Protestors had returned to the villages on Sunday night, but on Monday afternoon naxals had forcefully sent a huge crowd of villagers towards the camp. A large number of naxals, belonging to Jagargunda area committee and other formations of naxals, were also reported to be present in the crowd,' he said.
They allegedly charged towards the camp and pelted stones in a bid to attack the facility.
Armed ultras fired several rounds which was retaliated by security forces, he said.
'Wind shields, headlights and mirrors of two anti-landmine vehicles parked there were damaged in the stone-pelting,' the IGP said.
After the situation normalised, security forces searched the area during which they found three bodies of men and a person in an injured condition, he said.
'Whether the three deceased were ultras or civilians will be known after their identity is established,' Sundarraj said.
The injured was admitted to a hospital in Bijapur.
Soon after the incident, the IGP and a CRPF official reached the spot and took stock of the incident. They also spoke to villagers who were present there.
Meanwhile, Nanda Ram Markam, a villager, claimed that nine tribals were killed and over 50 others injured in the firing.
He said villagers want schools, anganwadis and hospitals and not the police camps.
The encounter spot is located around 10 km away from the site of the April 13 Naxal attack in Sukma district in which 22 security personnel were killed. PTI COR TKP GK NSK NSK