At least 13 Maoists killed in India clash

At least 13 Maoist insurgents were killed in a clash in central India, police said Wednesday, taking the rebel toll in the long-running conflict to 50 this year.

Police said the gunfight with security forces took place in a remote forest in Chhattisgarh state’s Bijapur district on Tuesday.

Local police chief P. Sundarraj told AFP that officers had seized a large cache of rifles, machine guns, grenade launchers and ammunition.

He said the gunfight with the guerrillas had lasted for around 14 hours.

“The identity of the Maoist dead bodies is yet to be established,” Sundarraj said, adding that three of those killed were women.

More than 50 Maoists have been killed in India this year, 46 of them in Chhattisgarh and another four in Maharashtra state, according to police figures.

India has deployed tens of thousands of security personnel to battle the Maoist rebels across the insurgent-dominated “Red Corridor”, which stretches across central, southern and eastern states but has been shrinking in size.

The insurgents, who are known as Naxalites and say they are fighting for the rural poor, have carried out guerilla attacks since 1967.

New Delhi has pumped millions of dollars into infrastructure development into remote areas, and claims to have confined the insurgency to 45 districts in 2023, down from 96 in 2010.

The annual number of rebels killed has dropped by more than two-thirds in the past decade, according to government figures.

India is to hold a marathon six-week general election beginning on April 19.

Lat year ,Ten policemen and a civilian driver were killed in a blast in the central Indian state of Chhattisgarh on Wednesday as they were returning from an operation against ultra left-wing guerrillas in the state, local police officials said.

Rebel Maoists are suspected of having carried out the attack in the state’s Dantewada district, they said. The victims were part of the District Reserve Guard (DRG).

“When they were returning after the operation, which was carried out following a tip-off, the DRG vehicle was targeted using an improvised explosive device (IED),” Inspector General of Police P. Sunderraj said.

“Additional reinforcements and senior officers have reached the spot and the bodies of the deceased are being evacuated,” he said

Rebel Maoists, who ascribe to a form of communism developed by Mao Zedong, have been waging an armed struggle against Indian government forces for decades, particularly in rural areas of central and eastern India where they have some support.

They say they are fighting to give poor farmers and landless labourers more control over their land and a greater claim on mineral wealth currently exploited by companies.

The conflict has resulted in the death of many personnel from the security forces in Chhattisgarh over the years.

The Indian home minister, Amit Shah, condemned the incident on Twitter, saying: “Have spoken to Chhattisgarh’s Chief Minister and assured all possible assistance to the state government.”In April 2021, at least 22 police personnel were killed by Maoist fighters during an anti-insurgency operation Chhattisgarh’s Sukma district.

In the preceding month, five policemen were killed and several others injured in a blast in the state’s Narayanpur district that local police said was a Maoist strike targeting a bus carrying more than 20 police personnel.

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