Seventy police missing in Maoist attack in Chhattisgarh | Reuters 04/08/2010 | 4:03 pm IST
Some 70 policemen are missing after Maoist rebels ambushed a security patrol in Chhattisgarh on Wednesday, police said, in what could be one of the worst attacks this year in a worsening insurgency. Police said a gunbattle continued in the dense southern jungles of Chhattisgarh, a rebel stronghold, and communication was difficult because it was raining heavily. The ambush by about 200 Maoist fighters highlights the strong rebel presence in large swathes of India, especially remote rural areas left out of the booming economy. “We estimate around 70 policemen are missing. We have not been able to establish contact,” T.J. Longkumer, a police inspector general, told Reuters.
In a separate attack in Jharkhand, the rebels killed five people on Tuesday, police said. It was not immediately clear why the Maoists killed them. Recent attacks on police have raised questions over how well prepared security forces are to tackle the Maoists, especially during a counter-offensive by security forces this year. In April, a similar ambush by the Maoists killed 75 policemen and a month later 35 people, including security forces, died when the rebels bombed a bus. Both attacks occurred in mineral-rich but largely poor Chhattisgarh.
The rebels say they are fighting for the rights of poor farmers and landless labourers and are planning to topple the Indian state by 2050. They operate from jungle bases and carry out hit-and-run attacks on police, railways and government buildings in east, central and southern India where they control vast swaths of mineral-rich land with billions of dollars in business potential. Thousands have been killed since the insurgency started in the late 1960s.