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Death Toll from Deadly Maoist Assault in Eastern India Rises to 24 བོད་སྐད།

  • Anjana Pasricha

In eastern India, the death toll from Monday's deadly attack by Maoist rebels on a security camp has risen to 24 people. The guerrillas say the attack is in retaliation to a recent offensive mounted by security forces to flush out the rebels. From , Anjana Pasricha has a report.

Policemen retrieved more bodies, Tuesday, as they cleared a paramilitary post devastated in a daring attack by Maoist rebels in Shilda village of West Bengal state.

Officials say nearly 100 rebels, some riding motorcycles, surrounded the camp, shot dead several policemen, detonated land mines and set the camp ablaze. The rebels fled after looting weapons. Many policemen were injured in the attack.

The security camp is about 170 kilometers south of West Bengal's capital, Kolkata. West Bengal police chief Bhupinder Singh calls it the worst-ever attack by the rebels in the state.

"Certainly it is a setback, so many lives have been lost, but I don't think it is going to change our resolve in tackling this menace."

A top Maoist leader in the area Kishenji told a TV station the attack was in response to an operation being carried out by security forces to clear Maoist-dominated areas. He warned of more such attacks, unless the offensive is halted, immediately.

The operation was mounted in several eastern and central Indian states after the federal government said the Maoist rebels are the biggest internal security threat to the country.

A top official for internal security, U.K. Bansal, says the latest attack is a cause for worry.

"We will have to revise our strategy in Bengal, place more emphasis on training of the men who are involved there."

Home Minister P. Chidambaram said every attack of this kind exposed what he calls "the true nature and character of the rebels."

The latest assault has come just a week after he said security forces were making progress in clearing areas dominated by Maoist rebels. He has offered a dialogue with the rebels, if they give up violence. The Maoists say they will only accept the offer if four of their top leaders are released from jail.

The rebels say they are fighting for land and jobs for poor people and have gradually spread their influence in many forested and remote rural areas, which have been bypassed by the economic growth in the country. The rebels have a presence in about one third of about 600 districts in India.

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