Thousands of troops to flush out Maoists responsible for Chhattisgarh attack
New Delhi (AsiaNews/Agencies) - The Indian Army has launched a massive manhunt to capture the Maoist rebels responsible for an attack that took place in Bastar District in Chhattisgarh (Western India), which killed 24 members of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA), the coalition of parties of Sonia Gandhi and the Prime Minister Manmoham Singh.
According to survivors, at least 200 suspected rebels took part in the attack on the convoy carrying several political leaders, such as UPA Chhattisgarh president Nandkumar Pate, and Mahendra Karma, the historic local leader of the coalition.
Ram Niwas, a top police official in Chhattisgarh state, did not give details about today's search but said thousands of troops were working in the "inhospitable terrain" to hunt down those responsible for the attack. "There are hills, rivers and dense forests and the population is very sparse. Searching these areas is very difficult," he said.
The Naxalite rebels carried out the ambush on Saturday at Sukma, about 345 km south of Raipur, the state capital. The convoy was carrying at least 50 UPA officials and leaders, returning from an election rally in tribal areas, an historic Maoist stronghold.
The guerrillas blocked the road with tree trunks to stop the convoy, forcing passengers to get out of their vehicles. Once on the road, they were hit by a huge explosion and bursts of gunfire. Afterwards, the rebels fled into the forest just before the arrival of the police.
According to experts, the operation is a warning to UPA members, some of whose leaders, including Karma, were among the founders of anti-Maoist militias accused of committing atrocities in Naxalite-controlled tribal villages.
Yesterday, Sonia Gandhi and Prime Minister Manmoham Singh visited attack survivors and paid tribute to the victims.
The Naxalite movement was founded in 1967 in Naxalbari, a suburb of Kolkata (West Bengal). In 2004, two major factions merged to form the Communist Party of India (Maoist).
At present, the extremist paramilitary group is said to have about 30,000 fighters in the so-called 'red corridor' that runs through the Indian sub-continent from the states on the border with Nepal to Andhra Pradesh in southern India.