Maoist rebels launched a series of devastating ambushes on Indian troops today killing at least 75 in the deadliest strike against the government in their 43-year insurgency.
The attack, which came amid a major Indian offensive aimed at crushing the Maoists, fuelled concerns the government is sending poorly trained forces to the front lines.
Indian Home Minister Palaniappan Chidambaram, the nation’s top law enforcement official, said the attacks showed “the brutality and the savagery” of the rebels.
At least 82 troops were in a patrol party that had spent three or four days scouring forests in the rebel stronghold of Dantewada, in Chhattisgarh state..
Rebels ambushed some of the troops, killing at least three of them. Another 17 who went to recover the bodies were killed when their vehicle was blown up by a land mine. More troops died as the fighting continued to rage.
The bodies of 75 men were recovered from the remote and heavily forested area.
Few other details were available from the area
The rebels are known as Naxals or Naxalites, after Naxalbari, the village in West Bengal state where their movement was born in 1967. In February, they killed at least 24 police officers in West Bengal in a stunning attack on their camp.
Inspired by Chinese revolutionary leader Mao Zedong, the rebels have tapped into the rural poor’s growing anger at being left out of the country’s economic gains and are now present in 20 of the country’s 28 states. They have an estimated 10,000 to 20,000 fighters.
The troops were part of the government’s “Operation Green Hunt” offensive aimed at flushing the militants out of their forest hide-outs.
Several experts said the government offensive was flawed and the inadequately trained and poorly equipped soldiers were often sitting ducks for Maoists much more familiar with the terrain.