Friday, November 20, 2009

'Maoist attack' on railway derails India train

Maoist rebels in India have blown up a railway track, leading to the derailment of a passenger train in the eastern state of Jharkhand, police say.

At least two people were killed and 47 others injured in the incident, which happened near Ghaghra station.

Rebels are fighting for communist rule in a number of Indian states. They have a presence in more than 223 of India's 600-odd districts across 20 states.

More than 6,000 people have died during the rebels' 20-year fight.

Eight coaches of the passenger train plying between Tatanagar and Bilaspur derailed after the rebels blew up a portion of the railway track near Ghaghra halt station in Jharkhand's West Singhbhum district, police said.

"Maoists blew up a portion of the track that caused the derailment. Three coaches have been badly damaged," federal railway minister Mamata Banerjee said.

Ms Banerjee said two passengers travelling on the train had died after the coaches derailed. Six others were trapped in the coaches, she added.

The rebels set off several explosions near the tracks after the incident to prevent rescue workers from reaching the site, the railway minister said.

Rescue workers have reached the site and are trying to bring out the passengers who are trapped, a senior police official said.

'Biggest threat'

The incident happened at the same time as the rebels called for a 24-hour strike in Jharkhand. They are demanding that a rebel who was arrested recently by the police should be presented in court immediately.

Last week, the rebels abducted a former legislator in Jharkhand, and later released him.

Ramchandra Singh was canvassing for the forthcoming state assembly elections. Polls are to be held in five phases between 27 November and 18 December.

Police say they are unclear about the reasons behind Mr Singh's abduction and subsequent release.

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has described the Maoist insurgency as the single largest threat to the country.

The rebels say they are fighting for communist rule and the rights of the poor peasants and landless.

There has been a surge in Maoist violence in recent months - the rebels have kidnapped and killed policemen, help up an express train, attacked police stations, and blown up railway lines and communication links in affected states.

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