Monday, March 13, 2006

Naxals hijack train, 200 passengers

Ranchi, India: Hundreds of Maoist rebels captured a passenger train with about 200 people on board in Jharkhand on Monday, police said.

A rebel on the train pulled the emergency cord, forcing it to stop in a remote and hilly area in Latehar district, 160 km west of Ranchi, the capital of Jharkhand, a mineral-rich but largely lawless area.

"It is not known whether the passengers are safe or have been robbed," Subodh Kumar, the most senior police officer in Latehar said.

Officials said police had rushed to the area. Maoist rebels had called a strike in the region on Monday to protest the killing of one of their commanders by police last week.

Maoist rebels, who claim to fight for peasants and landless labourers, have stepped up attacks on police and government supporters in eastern India in recent months.

They killed more than 50 pro-government tribespeople in a landmine attack in neighbouring Chhattisgarh state this month.

The rebels, with strong links to Maoist guerrillas just to the north in Nepal, are becoming increasingly active and some analysts say they pose a bigger problem for the central government in Delhi than the separatist rebellion in Kashmir.

The government estimates there are about 9,300 Maoist rebels operating in the country in what is known as the "Red Corridor", stretching from the Nepal border in the north through several states to south India.

www.expressindia.com

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