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Maoists blow up private bus in Dantewada, kill 36

Virtually striking at will, Maoists blew up a private bus near Dantewada in Chhattisgarh, killing at least 36 people. Of the dead, 24 were civilians and 12 special police officers. It is feared the number of dead will go up. Maoists had killed 76 securitymen in Dantewada on April 6. Chronology: Naxal attacks | Map | Full coverage| Listen to podcastvideoIt may get worse: Home Ministry

india Updated: May 18, 2010 09:36 IST

Virtually striking at will, Maoists blew up a private bus near Dantewada in Chhattisgarh, killing at least 36 people. Of the dead, 24 were civilians and 12 special police officers. It is feared the number of dead will go up. Maoists had killed 76 securitymen in Dantewada on April 6.

Reacting to the attack, Home Minister P. Chidambaram said that he will again try to persuade the Union cabinet for a wider mandate including air support (but not air power) to tackle the Maoists.

Monday’s attack took place near Chingawaran on Sukma Road in Dantewada, about 550 km south of Raipur. This is an area dominated by Maoists and they have demonstrated this many times in the past.

This is the first time Maoists attacked a private bus. Official sources said some of the SPOs might have alerted the Maoists by sitting on top of the bus in their trademark khaki uniforms.

The sources said the rebels might have accessed information about many SPOs having boarded the bus along the route, assumed to be heavily mined by the extremists.

“The policemen appeared to have been the main targets and the rebels also attempted to spread fear among private transporters and civilians to force them to disallow the forces from travelling in their vehicles,” a top intelligence official in the state police headquarters told HT on condition of anonymity.

Rights activist and director of Tribal Welfare Society Pravin Patel blamed the police administration for using private buses to move in the red zone.

“The tribal villagers and the bus owners are in a fix as they cannot refuse the security forces from boarding the buses. At least, the law enforcing agencies should avoid using private buses,” he said.

Immediately after the attack, the Union Home Minister said that he will ask for a wider mandate to tackle the Maoists. Speaking to NDTV, he said, “We will go back to the cabinet committee to revisit that (limited) mandate in the light of the revised strategy that the CPI(Maoist) is following.”

He said the “men on the ground” want air support in the fight against the Maoists. “The security forces, the CMs want it. The CMs of Bengal, Andhra, Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh, Orissa asked for air support.”

In Raipur, Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Raman Singh said the attack shows Naxals frustration who were now targeting civilians.

The last big attack in Dantewada was on April 6 when Maoists trapped and gunned down 75 Central Reserve Police Force men and a policeman.

(With inputs from S. Karimuddin in Jagdalpur)

First Published: May 17, 2010 18:00 IST