Monday, July 13, 2009

Indian Police Hunt for Maoists After Attacks Kill 29 Officers

By Bibhudatta Pradhan

July 13 (Bloomberg) -- Indian police searched for Maoist rebels who killed 29 policemen, including a district police chief, in the state of Chhattisgarh, a mineral-rich region at the center of the country’s war with left-wing insurgents.

“We have launched the combing operation,” Deputy Inspector General of Police Pawan Dev said by telephone. The police officers were killed yesterday in Maoist ambushes and landmine attacks in three separate incidents in Rajnandgaon district of the state, he said.

Chhattisgarh is among 11 of 28 states where Maoist guerrillas, known as Naxalites, are active. Maoists have waged a campaign of violence against the government, police and landowners for four decades. Attacks left 455 civilians and members of the security forces dead in the six months to June 30, according to the federal government. Of those, 148 died in Chhattisgarh.

About 25 security personnel, including the superintendent of police, were killed when Maoists ambushed them in Madanwada area of the district, where rebels had killed two policemen earlier yesterday, Dev said. Two others died when the rebels attacked a police team heading for Madanwada, he said.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has called the guerrillas the greatest threat to internal security. India banned the rebel group and more than a dozen of its “front organizations” on June 22, granting police powers to arrest people even if they don’t engage in violence.

Maoists are now targeting vital economic infrastructure and transport links. They have killed political leaders and tried to disrupt the general elections in April and May by attacking poll officials and voting booths.

To contact the reporter on this story: Bibhudatta Pradhan in New Delhi at bpradhan@bloomberg.net.

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