Rebels kill 23 in India ambush
AIP , India A heavilyarmed gang of nearly 300 leftist rebels killed at least 23 people in an attack on a convoy carrying local Congress party leaders and supporters in central India, police said yesterday.
The attack on Saturday was the deadliest in three years and the latest in a long-simmering conflict that pits the left-wing insurgents against authorities in the forests of mainly central and eastern India.
State Congress chief Nand Kumar Patel, his son Dinesh, and former state home minister Mahendra Karma who had set up a controversial anti-leftist group in 2005 were among those killed in the mine and gun attack in a remote tribal belt of Chhattisgarh state.
The total number of dead now stands at 23. We can also confirm that 32 people are injured, most of them seriously, state police director- general Ramniwas, who goes by one name, said.
Former federal minister Vidya Charan Shukla was badly injured and had been airlifted to New Delhi in serious condition, said Congress vicepresident Rahul Gandhi, who flew to the state capital Raipur late on Saturday.
The 84-year-old Shukla, a veteran Congress parliamentarian, was being treated by a team of doctors at a private hospital on the outskirts of the capital.
The rebels triggered a landmine before opening fire at the convoy of Congress party workers and leaders who were leaving the area after a political rally, police said.
At least five policemen also lost their lives in the attack in the Jagdalpur area of Bastar district, 375km south of Raipur.
Whenourcarsreachedaturning point, the Naxals started firing, an injured Congress worker told NDTV, referring to the rebels also known as Naxalites.
Two cars were blown up and the firing continued for almost one and a half hours. Many people were killed and many sustained bullet injuries. Some of us lay on the road to save ourselves.
Congress chief Sonia Gandhi, who has condemned the incident as shocking , rushed to Raipur along with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to take stock of the situation.
Singh, who has described the leftists as the countrys most serious internal security threat, said the ambush should spur the battle against extremists.
Those who have lost their lives in this barbaric attack are martyrs of democracy, he said after visiting the wounded in hospital yesterday.
We have to be more determined in fighting Naxal extremism. These lives should not go in vain.
Leftist rebels have been operating mainly in rural areas of central and eastern India since 1967.
Narendra Modi, senior leader of the main national opposition Bharatiya Janata Party, slammed the attack and called for unity against naxalism.
The need of the hour is to stand together as a nation and vow to fight this menace that threatens our democracy, he said on tte . A P