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Maoist Rebels in India Attack Security Forces

Indian Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) soldiers carry the body of a colleague at Bhimrao hospital in Raipur, 30 Jun 2010
Indian Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) soldiers carry the body of a colleague at Bhimrao hospital in Raipur, 30 Jun 2010

In India, Maoist rebels have inflicted another deadly blow on Indian security forces, killing 26 paramilitary soldiers in an attack. It is the latest in a series of daring attacks by the rebels ,who appear undeterred by a government operation to flush them out.

The violence blamed on Maoist rebels flared hours before the guerrillas had called for a two-day strike, starting Wednesday, across five eastern and central states.

Authorities say the soldiers were on an operation to clear a road ahead of the shutdown in Chattisgarh state when they were gunned down, Tuesday. Several soldiers were injured.

The inspector general of police in the state, Girdhari Naik, says about 150 rebels opened fire with automatic weapons from a hilltop.

Naik says fighting lasted for nearly an hour and a half. He calls it a "heavy ambush". He says reinforcements went from a nearby camp to rescue the soldiers.

The state's chief minister, Raman Singh, condemned the latest attack, saying the Maoists lacked the courage to engage in a direct fight with security forces. He also held a meeting to review strategy against the rebels.

Chattisgarh, one of India's poorest states, is among the regions worst affected by Maoist violence. In April, the rebels killed 76 soldiers in the same state. Last month, 30 bus passengers died in a land mine attack.

Tuesday' attack has reignited a debate on the reasons why a government offensive launched last year to take out the guerrillas is making virtually no progress.

Several independent security analysts say the anti-Maoist operation is not working because police and paramilitary forces do not have the training required to tackle the guerrillas, who operate from remote bases where there is virtually no government presence.

Bharat Karnad, a security analyst with the independent Center for Policy Research in New Delhi, is among those calling for specially trained forces to flush out the guerrillas.

"Is it not possible to have very military trained special forces that can go and live off the jungle for months at a time, to gather intelligence and deal with the guerrillas as they see fit. That is how you do it. You cannot have a long logistics line that goes into the jungle, because then you invariably make these forces vulnerable, vulnerable to the kind of attack we saw yesterday," he said.

The Maoists say they are fighting for the rights of millions of poor and landless people who are living in deep poverty in remote regions bypassed by the country's economic boom.

The government says what it believes are the root causes of the rebellion - lack of effective governance and development in some parts of the country - need attention.