17 die as rebels try to disrupt polling in India

The first day of polling in India’s general election was disrupted by Maoist-led violence that left at least 17 people dead.

Voting ended early in all constituencies affected by rebel violence with the remaining areas shut by 5pm local time (1.30pm Irish time) today. The first of five phases of parliamentary elections was held in 17 states across the country.

The rebels struck early this morning in the state of Jharkand, using landmines that killed at least seven people including five security personnel on election duty, deputy commissioner Sarvendu Tathagat said.

A bus carrying security forces was blown up by the improvised explosive device (IED) blast. The Maoist rebels attacked at least 12 locations over the course of the day including a polling booth in Rohtas district in Bihar.

In two other districts in Orissa and Chhattisgarh, they blocked roads and cut off access to polling booths.

The rebels also snatched voting machines from two booths in Chhattisgarh’s Dantewara district and killed six security personnel in a landmine explosion elsewhere. Two polling officials were also reported dead in a landmine strike, while a paramilitary trooper was shot dead during crossfire in the same state.

An election officer’s vehicle was blown up by another landmine and five polling officers were reportedly killed when the Maoists detonated explosives in two districts in the state.

The rebellion was active across many constituencies that went to the polls today including those in Chhattisgarh, Orissa, Andhra Pradesh, Maharasthra, Jharkhand and Bihar.

Four officials on election duty were allegedly kidnapped in the state of Jharkand.

In neighbouring Bihar, a policeman and a home guard on election duty were also shot dead, while there were also reports of gun battles, booths being raided and voters being attacked.

Of the 543 parliamentary seats being contested, 124 will be decided in the first of five phases to be held over the next month.

The country’s main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) slammed the ruling Congress for the deteriorating security. BJP spokesperson Arun Jaitley said the Congress Party had failed, in the last five years, to curtail Maoist rebellion.

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