- - Tuesday, March 27, 2012

GADCHIROLI, India — Maoist rebels exploded a roadside bomb near a bus carrying police officers, killing at least 12 and critically injuring 8 in the western state of Maharashtra on Tuesday, authorities said.

The noontime attack occurred in Maharashtra’s Gadchiroli district near the remote village of Pushtola, said Rahul Seth, a senior anti-Maoist operations official. The officers were members of the Central Reserve Police Force, India’s largest paramilitary outfit.

Mr. Seth said the rebels had placed roadside bombs along the route commonly used by the police force, which was carrying out a road-clearing operation at the time of the attack.

The remoteness of the area made it difficult for rescuers to reach the blast site, and most of the injured were flown by helicopter to a hospital, police said.

The attack comes as rebels in the eastern state of Odisha are holding hostage an Italian tourism business owner and an Indian tribal lawmaker in an attempt to force the release of several Maoist prisoners from jails and prisons around the country.

Still being held are Boscusco Polo, an Italian tourism business owner who was kidnapped March 14, and local lawmaker Jhina Hikaka, a member of the ruling Biju Janata Dal party who was taken early Saturday by a rival faction of the Maoists who kidnapped Mr. Polo.

Maoist leaders and government officials are negotiating for Mr. Polo’s release.

But the rival faction that kidnapped Mr. Hikaka has rejected negotiations and threatened to kill the lawmaker if the government does not meet its demands, which include halting police operations against the Maoists unofficially known as “Operation Green Hunt.”

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