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Indian Police Hunt for Missing Officers After Deadly Maoist Attack

In eastern India hundreds of policemen have been deployed to search for 13 policemen who are missing after an attack by suspected Maoist rebels. Thirty para-military officers were killed in the attack - one of the deadliest blamed on the rebels this year.

Police say the officers have been missing since Maoist rebels ambushed a convoy of policemen at Rajnandgaon, 90 kilometers from the capital of Chattisgarh.

The policemen came under attack when they went to hunt for rebels who allegedly shot dead two of their colleagues on Sunday morning. Many of them were killed including the district police chief.

Mukesh Gupta is a senior police official who was in the security reinforcement team that went after the rebels.

"We chased them away, again they regrouped together, and then they blocked us up, they cut the road by a blast, and then they surrounded us and fired on us," Gupta said.

The attack was one of the worst this year in Chattisgarh - a state where Maoist rebels have entrenched themselves.

Security analysts say that the proximity of the attack to the state capital is an indication that their influence is widening in one of India's poorest states. Just a month ago, the rebels killed 11 policemen in a landmine blast in the state.

The Maoist guerrillas are active in a forested belt running through several states in eastern India. In recent weeks, hundreds of soldiers have been carrying out operations to evict the rebels from West Bengal state where they took control of a number of villages.

About 250 security personnel have been killed this year in attacks blamed on Maoist rebels, who say they are fighting for the rights of poor and landless people.

Just weeks ago, the federal government declared the movement led by the rebels a terrorist group, and said the Maoists pose a serious internal security threat to the country.

Besides the Maoists, security forces are battling a number of rebel groups in the remote northeast of the country as well. On Monday, one of these, the Bodo rebels, was blamed for detonating a landmine that killed an army officer and his driver in the northeastern state of Assam. The Bodo rebels have been fighting for an independent homeland for the Bodo tribe in the restive northeast region.