Chhattisgarh: Suspected Maoist rebels kill 24 soldiers

Attack that killed 24 troops while guarding road workers follows similar rebel violence last month in central region.

India’s Maoists are believed to be present in at least 20 states

Suspected Maoist rebels have killed at least 24 paramilitary soldiers on Monday in a remote part of central India, a police official said, the latest attack in a simmering internal conflict.

The soldiers were guarding road workers in the Sukma district of Chhattisgarh state when they came under fire. The rebels fired from hilltops at the group of soldiers, police officer Jitendra Shukla said.

Local media reported that at least six commandos had been critically injured and were being airlifted to safety.

The attack is the latest in a long-running conflict between insurgents and Indian authorities in the forests and rural areas of mainly central and eastern India.

“We have recovered 23 bodies from the spot and one jawan (soldier) died in Raipur during treatment,” Anand Chhabra, a senior police officer in restive Chhattisgarh told AFP news agency, referring to the state capital.

Bhagwati Singh, a police spokesman said: “Our teams have been deployed there. We will receive more information about the situation soon.”

Decades-long conflict

Last month Maoist rebels killed 11 paramilitary policemen in the same state after ambushing their convoy.

The rebels, who say they are fighting for the rights of tribal people and landless farmers, often collect funds through extortion.

They say they are inspired by Chinese revolutionary leader Mao Zedong, and have been fighting for more than three decades in central and eastern India, staging hit-and-run attacks to press their demand for a greater share of wealth and more jobs for the poor.

The Maoists are believed to be present in at least 20 states but are most active in Chhattisgarh, Orissa, Bihar, Jharkhand and Maharashtra.

The violence is believed to have cost tens of thousands of lives, with much action focused around the rebel-dominated “Red Corridor” stretching through central and eastern India.

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