Twenty killed in Maoist attacks on election eve in the Eastern States of India
RANCHI (Reuters) - At least 20 people were killed in gunbattles between police and Maoist insurgents in the eastern states of Jharkhand and Bihar on Wednesday, officials say, a day before the elections the rebels have vowed to disrupt.
Maoist rebels have called for a poll boycott and blocked roads in remote towns in the region to prevent election officials from reaching remote polling booths.
Police officers say the rebels have also threatened to chop off the hands of voters.
The Maoists, who say they are fighting for the rights of poor farmers and landless labourers, have stepped up attacks in eastern and central India ahead of election.
In Jharkhand, which goes to polls on Thursday, eight people, including five Maoist rebels and two security personnel were killed in a fierce firefight.
In neighbouring Bihar, about a dozen Maoists were killed and several policemen were wounded in a gunbattle, after rebels fired at a police camp with rocket launchers.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has described the Maoist violence as the biggest internal security threat, as experts said the rebels were likely to step up attacks.
Thousands have been killed in the Maoist insurgency which began in the late 1960s and now stretches throughout rural areas of eastern, central and southern India.
RANCHI: Seven people, including five Maoist rebels, were killed when guerrillas attacked a bus carrying security personnel in Jharkhand's Lathear area, just before the first phase of parliamentary elections on Thursday. ( Watch )
The bus carrying around 80 security personnel was ambushed near Nimiadih village of Latehar district, about 140 km from here, late Tuesday.
Maoist rebels first detonated a landmine and then started firing indiscriminately. The security personnel retaliated with gunfire.
"The bus driver was killed on the spot and one security personnel died on the way to hospital. The bodies of five Maoist rebels have also been recovered," police spokesperson S N Pradhan told IANS.
Four security personnel were injured in the incident. They have been referred to the ApolloHospital here.
In an another attack, wver 200 Maoist rebels also attacked a Border Security Force (BSF) camp near Ratnag in Palamau district, about 190 km from here, Tuesday night.
There were around 70 BSF personnel in the camp, which was set up to ensure peaceful polling. The gunbattle between the guerrillas and security personnel lasted several hours but no one was injured.
The six parliamentary constituencies that go to the polls in the first phase of elections Thursday are considered Maoist strongholds. The polling will be conducted under air surveillance by five India Air Force (IAF) helicopters.
Latehar/Sasaram (PTI): In attacks aimed at disrupting Thursday's first phase of Lok Sabha polls, Maoists on Wednesday targeted security personnel in Jharkhand and Bihar killing at least two persons, including a CRPF constable, and leaving seven others injured while suffering five casualties themselves.
In Latehar area of Jharkhand, about 125 km. from Ranchi, the Maoists triggered a landmine blast targeting an empty bus heading to a poll cluster for Thursday's polls in Naxal- affected Palamau constituency, killing the civilian driver.
Latehar falls under the Palamau seat.
Immediately after the blast, 80 CRPF constables, who had alighted from the bus fearing an attack on a road stretch on a sharp incline and were walking behind the vehicle, took positions and fired on the extremists, Inspector General of Police (Provision) S N Pradhan said.
CRPF constable Dharmendar Yadav and five Maoists were killed in the exchange of fire, he said. Six injured Maoists were taken away by the extremists. Six CRPF personnel were also injured in the gunfight.
Earlier on Wednesday, about 200 Maoists attacked a BSF camp of 70-odd men and officers in Bihar's Rohtas district, set up in connection with the polls, leaving a jawan injured, Superintendent of Police Vikas Vaibhav told PTI in Sasaram, around 200 km. from Patna.
About heavily armed guerrillas, who have called for a boycott of the Lok Sabha polls, surrounded the BSF camp near Rohtasgarh fort in DhansaValley at around 1.40 am and attacked it with rockets, Additional Director General of Police (HQ) Neelmani said in Patna.
The BSF personnel retaliated and engaged the ultras in an encounter that lasted over three and a half hours..
A BSF jawan, who suffered a leg injury, has been evacuated and shifted to PatnaMedicalCollege hospital where he is reported to be out of danger, Neelmani said.
IG (Operations) S K Bharadwaj said two IAF helicopters were assisting the forces in tracking down the retreating Naxals and airdropping security personnel.
Rohtas SP, Vikas Vaibhav is leading a team of central para-military forces, state police and a special task force in the forests around the scene of encounter.
Sources in the state police headquarters said there were signs of the wounded being dragged, indicating casualties on the part of the Naxalites, but no bodies had been found so far.
It was for the first time in the last 15 years or more that polling stations were set up at Budhuan and Dhansa close to Rohtasgarh fort to enable the electors to cast their votes and the BSF contingent was stationed close by to instill confidence among them..
On Tuesday night, the CRPF and the Maoists had exchanged gunfire at Ratnag village, also in Palamau district.
The police had launched a concerted move against the Naxalites following their call for boycott of elections and destroyed their training camp in the forest close to Nakti village under Rohtas police station limits a couple of days ago. Today's attack could be in retaliation for that, sources said.
On April 12, at least 11 CISF personnel were killed in a gunfight following a daring attack by Maoists on a well-guarded armoury and bauxite mine of public sector NALCO in Orissa's Koraput district. Four naxalites were killed in the encounter.
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