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Maoist Rebels Lead Mass Jailbreak in India


A mass jailbreak in central India led by Maoist rebels has demonstrated the growing strength of a communist insurgency in the region. Anjana Pasricha reports from New Delhi on how nearly 300 prisoners managed to escape from a prison in Chattisgarh state.

The nearly 300 prisoners made their dramatic escape from Dantewada prison. The jailbreak took place while the inmates were being served food Sunday evening.

Authorities say a group of prisoners overpowered prison guards, grabbed their rifles, and opened fire. They broke open the gates, allowing most of the prisoners to flee. Three prison guards and two prisoners were injured in the shooting.

Many of those who escaped were Maoist rebels, and the authorities believe they were the ones who planned the jailbreak. According to local media reports, the prison was not adequately guarded at the time of the escape, with only four guards on duty.

A counter-insurgency expert with New Delhi's Institute of Conflict Management, Ajay Sahni, says the incident highlights the poor security in Chattisgarh, which is a stronghold of Maoist rebellion.

"Almost every department in the security structure of Chattisgarh state is currently undermanned, under-equipped, and exceedingly primitive in terms of the equipment and technology available to them," said Sahni. "The Maoists are better trained and better equipped."

This is not the first time the rebels have managed to get the upper hand on the security forces in Chattisgarh. In July, at least 24 officers were killed when rebels attacked a police search party. In March, 55 policemen were killed in an attack by the rebels on a security post.

After Sunday's jailbreak, authorities say they will improve security in the state's prisons. They have already suspended five officials.

Maoist groups are active in the less-developed and poorer states of central and eastern India, like Chattisgarh. They say they are fighting for land and jobs for the poor.

Counter-insurgency experts say the rebels have been able to entrench themselves easily in rural areas that have been left out of India's economic boom.

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