Sunday, June 29, 2008

39 Indian police missing after Maoist attack: official

1 hour ago


BHUBANESWAR, India (AFP) — At least 39 members of an elite Indian anti-insurgency unit were missing feared drowned in the east of the country Sunday after their boat capsized following an attack by Maoist rebels, police said.

The boat, which was carrying 64 people, came under heavy rebel fire while patrolling a reservoir near Malkangiri in the south of the coastal state of Orissa, police said.

Twenty-five policemen managed to swim ashore and were taken to hospital -- and many of them to be treated for serious gunshot wounds, police said.

No bodies have yet been found, although rescue officials recovered some police caps.

"The boat capsized after insurgents started firing indiscriminately at the Greyhound force," Malkangiri police superintendent, Satish Kumar Gajbhiye, told AFP by telephone from the area.

The attack was one of the biggest Maoist assaults on security personnel since March last year, when the rebels slaughtered 55 policemen in central Chhattisgarh state.

The Greyhound force is a special unit based in neighbouring Andhra Pradesh state. It was in the area on a joint operation with the Special Operations Group of the Orissa police to flush out insurgents from the forests.

Officials said helicopters have been sent to the area to search for any police who may have survived in the 40-metre (130-feet) deep reservoir.

Witnesses, however, said police had little hope of finding many more people alive.

The remote tribal district, on the border with the insurgency-hit states of Chhattisgarh and Andhra Pradesh, is in the heart of an eastern swathe of the country where the Maoists are increasingly active.

Mineral-rich Orissa is also one of India's poorest states.

In February, Indian security forces killed at least 35 guerrillas in the state in one of the biggest crackdowns to date after the rebels killed 13 policemen and one civilian in raids on security posts.

The Maoist insurgency, which grew out of a peasant uprising in 1967, has hit half of India's 29 states and is centred in a heavily forested region in central Chhattisgarh state.

Last year, 834 people were killed in Maoist-related violence nationwide.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has warned that the shadowy guerrillas -- known in the country as "Naxalites" -- were stepping up their insurgency in vast areas that had missed out on India's economic boom.

He has also described them as the biggest threat to India's internal security, although federal and state authorities have been struggling to come up with a strategy to battle the guerrillas.

Some officials have called for a massive and coordinated security operation of the kind used to battle insurgents in Indian Kashmir, while others have said the focus needs to be placed on improving living conditions in India's impoverished hinterland.

According to official figures, tribal villagers in the insurgency-hit east have no more than 35 cents a day to spend, the lowest in the country and providing for a fertile rebel recruiting ground.

35 policemen missing after Maoist attack in Andhra Pradesh
June 29th, 2008 - 11:45 pm ICT by IANS - Email This Post

Hyderabad, June 29 (IANS) At least 10 policemen were injured and 35 are missing after Maoist guerrillas ambushed a police team Sunday in Andhra Pradesh. The guerillas opened fire on the police while they were crossing a reservoir in a motorboat in Orissa’s Malkangiri district, bordering north coastal district of Visakhapatnam in Andhra Pradesh.

The motorboat was carrying 64 policemen, more than half of them from the anti-Maoist elite force Greyhound, returning to Sileru in Andhra Pradesh after an anti-Maoist operations in Orissa.


Unofficial reports said five policemen, including a sub-inspector, were killed in the attack.

Director General of Andhra Pradesh Police S.S.P. Yadav, however, did not confirm this.

The police chief told newsmen in coastal city of Visakhapatnam that 10 policemen were injured and 35 were missing after the attack.

Yadav, who rushed to the city, called on three critically injured policemen who are admitted to a hospital.

The Maoists reportedly used rocket launchers and fired from automatic AK-47 rifles. The motorboat capsized during the heavy firing and many policemen jumped into the water.

The remaining policemen either swam ashore or were rescued.

Chief Minister Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy, who held a meeting in Hyderabad, and reviewed the situation, asked police authorities to press two helicopters into service to trace the missing policemen.

The surprise attack on the police squad was carried out by State Militia Commission, which was recently constituted by the Communist Party of India-Maoist to intensify attacks on the Andhra Pradesh-Orissa border.

It is the biggest attack by guerillas in the recent years and it has came after Maoists suffered several setbacks in Andhra Pradesh.

Maoists lost over 300 armed cadres, including several top leaders, during the last three years. Police had recently claimed that the Maoist movement was on wane in the state with operations against the rebels having achieved many successes.

According to a list released by the police early this month, the armed Maoist cadres came down to 474 from 1,137 last year.

The Maoist violence in the southern state has claimed over 6,000 lives since 1969

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