Suspected Maoist rebels kill 9 policemen in Orissa
Suspected Maoist blew up a bus carrying police officers in a convoy in Orissa on Sunday, killing nine of them as the country's home minister repeated his offer to hold peace talks with the group.india Updated: Apr 04, 2010 17:28 IST
Suspected Maoist blew up a bus carrying police officers in a convoy in Orissa on Sunday, killing nine of them as the country's home minister repeated his offer to hold peace talks with the group.
Another 10 police officers, specially trained for fighting the insurgents, were wounded in the land mine attack on a hilly road near Mantriamba, a village 235 miles (525 kilometers) south of Bhubaneshwar, the capital of Orissa state, said Prakash Mishra, a deputy inspector-general of police.
No one claimed responsibility for the blast, but police blamed the insurgents.
Suspected rebels detonated the land mine as the convoy of three buses carrying nearly 70 police officers arrived in the area to clear it of the Maoist presence, Mishra told The Associated Press. The first vehicle hit by the blast was completely wrecked, killing nine police officers on the spot, he said. Three of the wounded were in serious condition, Mishra said.
Police officers in the other two vehicles exchanged gunfire with the attackers who managed to escape in the forested area, he said. The police officers were taking part in the government's "Operation Green Hunt" aimed at flushing the militants out of their forest hideouts.
The attack came on a day India's Home Minister Palaniappan Chidambaram visited a rebel stronghold in the neighboring state of West Bengal where he reviewed the progress of the offensive, launched in February.
The rebels are known as Naxals, after Naxalbari, the village in West Bengal state where the movement was founded in 1967. On Sunday, Chidambaram reiterated the government's offer that it would hold talks with the rebels if they abandon violence. "In fact, Naxals are cowards. Why are they hiding in forests? We have invited them for talks after they abjure violence. If they really want development, if they really want to discuss problems of the people, they are welcome to talk," he told reporters after meeting security officials in Lalgarh area.
Suspected rebels moved into the Lalgarh region last year after driving out poorly armed local police and seized control of villages in a 20-square-mile (50-square-kilometer) area. Security forces later drove them out from most of the area.
The rebels demand that the government's offensive end before they agree to talks.
Government officials say the Maoists are not serious about peace talks and want to use a truce to regroup and rearm themselves. Inspired by Chinese revolutionary leader Mao Zedong, the rebels have fought for more than four decades demanding land and jobs for farmers and the poor. About 2,000 people _ including police, militants and civilians _ have been killed in the past few years. The rebels, who have tapped into the rural poor's growing anger at being left out of the country's economic gains, are now present in 20 of the country's 28 states and have an estimated 10,000 to 20,000 fighters.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has called them India's biggest internal security threat.