Maoist rebels kill 20 in Indian village

Maoist rebels stormed a village in eastern India before dawn on Monday, dragged villagers out of their homes and shot 20 of them dead, officials said.


The victims were members of a village defense committee, one of hundreds formed by the government of Jharkhand state to fight the Maoist insurgency, deputy inspector-general of police Neeraj Sinha said.
Sinha said about 200 rebels ringed a village in the Bhelwaghati area, about 150 km (90 miles) north of the state capital, Ranchi, and hauled people out before gunning them down.

"This is the first time the extremists have targetted civilians in such a big way. Twenty people have been killed," Jharkhand Chief Minister Arjun Munda told Reuters by phone from Ranchi.
"The attack shows that these people (the Maoists) have been pushed to a corner and that they don't have the support of the people they claim to represent," he said.
Indian Maoists say they are fighting for the rights of peasants and landless laborers in the country's vast rural hinterland.

Earlier this month, the rebels and their more powerful counterparts in neighboring Nepal, who are fighting to topple the constitutional monarchy there, said they would work together to promote communism.
The killings in Jharkhand follow a land mine attack by Maoists in neighboring Chattisgarh state last week in which 23 policemen and a civilian were killed.

Despite several attacks in the past, the Jharkhand government has not outlawed the Maoists for fear it would aggravate the problem, and local politicians have instead advocated dialogue with them.
The guerrillas often hold their own courts to resolve disputes and kill officials they believe are corrupt.

Von: 12 September 2005,

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