Maoist ambush in east India kills 10 police commandos
The 10 deaths are one of the biggest losses of life suffered by the elite COBRA commandos. (Representative image) Photograph: (Getty)
Suspected Maoist rebels today killed 10 paramilitary commandos in the eastern Indian state of Bihar after ambushing their convoy in a forested area and setting off a series of bombs, in one of of the deadliest attacks this year.
The Maoist rebels detonated homemade bombs on Monday afternoon as members of an elite police unit, the Central Reserve Police Force were conducting an anti-Maoist operation in the dense forests.
The force was responding to a tip-off that a group of rebels had gathered at the top of a hill in the remote forest in Aurangabad district bordering Jharkhand state, when they found themselves trapped at lower ground.
"The police party had almost 100 troops. The first group got trapped in an area of land mines and there were serial blasts. The terrain is very difficult there and the extremists were on higher ground," detailed P.K. Thakur, the state's director general of police.
The Maoists triggered improvised explosions were followed by a gun battle between the CRPF forces and the rebels that lasted well into the night.
Thakur said eight police died on the spot in the ambush and two more men succumbed to their injuries on the way to hospital. The five wounded officers were evacuated by helicopter.
The CRPF gunned down at least three rebels in the subsequent gunfight before the Maoists fled deeper into the forests.
Police and paramilitary reinforcements were rushed to the area but the operation was later called off.
"We called off the operation late at night as we suspect more mines were planted in the area," Saurabh Kumar, deputy inspector general of police in the region told.
Police were investigating whether the commandos were drawn into the forest by a false tipoff about Maoist movements in the area.
State struggles with decades of insurgency
In December 2014, Maoists killed 13 police and wounded another 12 in an ambush in a remote part of Chhattisgarh. The troops were carrying out an operation deep in a forest when the gunmen attacked.
Maoist insurgents seeking the violent overthrow of the Indian state have been fighting for decades, launching hit-and-run attacks against security forces from jungle camps across swathes of poor and rural central and eastern India.
Tens of thousands of paramilitary troops and police are stationed in central and eastern India, fighting thousands of armed insurgents.
The number of attacks has fallen in recent years but the Maoists, who say they are fighting to free the poor and landless from exploitation of their land, continue to enjoy some support among the poor and violence remains common.
According to the South Asia Terrorism Portal, left-wing extremist violence has left 236 people dead this year, almost the same as for the whole of 2015. Almost half of the dead have been killed in mineral-rich Chhattisgarh.
The Maoist rebels claim to be fighting for jobs, land and other rights for mainly tribal minorities who suffer grinding poverty.
The rebels regularly launch attacks on security personnel in dozens of districts in the so-called "Red Corridor" which stretches through the country.
The insurgency has claimed thousands of lives, and the government describes it as the country's most serious internal security threat.