Maoist rebels kill 13 cops in eastern India

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RANCHI, India — A roadside bomb blast killed 13 police officers Saturday in eastern India — an attack that authorities attributed to Maoist rebels.

It is the second major attack on police since the killing of Maoist guerrilla leader Koteswar Rao, aka Kishenji, in November in the eastern state of West Bengal. In December, 10 police officers and an 8-year-old boy were killed in a roadside bomb attack in the eastern state of Jharkhand.

Saturday’s explosion occurred about noon in the Salo forest in the Garhwa district of Jharkhand, Police Inspector General R.K. Mallick told The Washington Times. Maoist guerrillas detonated a homemade bomb on a road as a vehicle carrying 15 police officers was going by.

“At least 13 our men are dead in the attack,” Inspector General Mallick said, as police combed the area for evidence after the blast.

According to government estimates, Maoist rebels in eastern India have killed at least 16,000 police officers and civilians over the past two years.

The Maoists suffered a setback when their leader, Kishenji, was killed in a gun battle with security forces on Nov. 24.

But in early December, they targeted a convoy for lawmaker Inder Singh Namdhari, killing 10 officers and a boy in a bomb attack similar to Saturday’s.

“Indeed, Jharkhand witnessed the highest level of retaliatory violence in the wake of Kishenji’s killing among Maoist-affected states,” said Deepak Kumar Nayak, an analyst at the Institute for Conflict Management in New Delhi.

“Despite efforts of security forces to contain the Maoists in Jharkhand, the rebels appear to have held, and even extended, their influence in the state,” he said.

The Maoists are heavily armed and live in the jungles mostly inhabited by tribal people.

The Maoist movement in India began in the late 1960s, taking root in urban areas among students. It subsided in the early 1970s, only to resurface as a more violent force that now operates under the banner of the Communist Party of India (Maoist).

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has called the Maoists the biggest internal threat to the country.

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