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Suspected Communist Guerrillas Kill 26 Policemen in India - 2004-04-08

At least 26 policemen have been killed in eastern India in an attack blamed on communist guerrillas.

Officials say a police convoy was on its way to raid a jungle hideout of suspected left-wing rebels when it hit a landmine in Jharkhand state.

The incident took place late Wednesday in a dense forest about 150 kilometers south of the state capital, Ranchi. More than a score of policemen were killed, others were seriously wounded.

Officials say they suspect that the outlawed People's War Group detonated the mine.

The radical group says it is fighting for the distribution of land to peasants in backward and tribal areas of central and eastern India. The rebels accuse authorities of repression, and they target wealthy landowners, policemen and government property.

It was the second major attack on policemen in the same area in the last year.

The attack came hours before Deputy Prime Minister Lal Krishna Advani was due in Jharkhand state as part of a nationwide election campaign tour.

Mr. Advani said the federal government is concerned by the activities of the communist rebels.

"Certainly this will be a matter of concern for me," he said. "The government of India viewed this as a problem by itself."

Arjun Munda, the chief minister of Jharkhand State, accused the rebels of trying to disrupt democracy through violence. He said the guerrillas were intensifying their attacks ahead of national parliamentary elections, which begin April 20. The rebels have called for an election boycott.

More than 6,000 people have died during the last two decades in violence surrounding the rebel movement.