Monday, October 29, 2007

Chhattisgarh: 5 policemen killed in naxal attack, 12 missing

NEW DELHI: Communist rebels opened fire on a special police force in eastern India on Monday, killing five officers and injuring three, police said.

About 200 Maoist rebels ambushed 20 officers near a local police headquarters in the eastern state of Chhattisgarh, said local police official R.K. Bij.

The officers were members of a special force trained to fight the growing rebel threat, Bij said. The attack occurred about 500 kilometers (310 miles) south of the state capital of Raipur.

The Maoist rebels hold sway over a wide swath of impoverished forest communities and farming villages largely left out of India's economic boom.

The rebels, known as the Naxalites, say they are fighting for land and jobs for the rural poor. They're especially popular with the region's indigenous peoples, who live on some of the country's richest mineral deposits and amid its largest timber reserves but rarely benefited from them.

After festering for decades with small, scattered attacks, the insurgency is now spread across 13 of India's 28 states and the rebels are believed to have about 6,000 fighters in an increasingly well-armed force.

There's little fear the insurgency could destabilize all of India. But the Maoists have proven to be a major disruptive force, and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has described the rebellion as "the single biggest internal security challenge ever faced by our country."

In July, 24 policemen and 25 rebels were killed in a battle in Chhattisgarh. And in March, the rebels bombarded a remote police post in the state, killing at least 49 people, most of them police, in one of the bloodiest attacks to date.

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