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India Maoist attack survivor recalls ordeal

Soldier recounts ambush by Maoist fighters that left 25 colleagues dead in flash point Chhattisgarh state.

India Maoist attack survivor recalls ordeal

Soldier recounts ambush by Maoist fighters that left 25 colleagues dead in flash point Chhattisgarh state.

26 April 2017 Wednesday 07:21
India Maoist attack survivor recalls ordeal

"Grenades and bullets were raining down" on paramilitary soldiers in a Maoist attack that killed 25 Indian personnel from the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), a surviving security personnel told Al Jazeera.

The soldiers were guarding road workers in the Sukma district, nearly 400km from Raipur, the capital of Chhattisgarh state, when they came under fire on Monday.

Constable Sher Mohammed was part of the more than 100 personnel from the 74th battalion of CRPF deployed in the jungles.

About 300 Maoists - a large number of them women - attacked from all sides while the soldiers were on their lunch break.

"We were sitting under the trees for lunch when we heard shots. Before we knew it, bullets were flying around us. Some of our companions were falling like trees crashing down," said Mohammed, who is recovering in a hospital in Raipur.

"It seemed as if hand grenades and bullets were raining down on us."

The pain of losing his colleagues was clearly visible on his face as he lay on the hospital bed.

"They used weapons like AK-47 and fired from all sides. That made it difficult for us but we kept firing back," Mohammed said.

"The distance between us and the Maoists was hardly 100 metres. As I tried to rescue a fellow soldier, seven or eight bullets hit my chest but my bulletproof jacket saved me."

Monday's attack was the latest in a long-running conflict between Maoist fighters and Indian forces in the rural areas of mainly central and eastern India.

At least 76 CRPF personnel were killed in a Maoist attack in the same district in 2010.

Mohammed, hit by 'seven or eight' bullets, was saved by his bulletproof vest

The Maoists, believed to be present in at least 20 Indian states, say they are fighting for the rights of the tribal people, the adivasis, and landless farmers against mining in the mineral-rich region.

In a recent statement in the parliament, Rajnath Singh, home minister, said the Maoists were frustrated because of the success of recent security operations against them.

Last year, 135 were killed, 700 were arrested and another 1,198 surrendered to government forces, Singh said, citing figures from NDTV.

Narendra Modi, India's prime minister, sent his condolences to the families of the soldiers killed in the attack. Singh, for his part, dubbed it a "cold blooded murder".

Bhupesh Baghel, from the opposition Congress party, blamed the attack on the lack of coordination between the CRPF and the state police.

However, Ramsewak Paikra, Chhattisgarh home minister, denied the claim, saying the development work done by the previous Congress government was the real reason behind the attack.

"The Maoists know that development is limiting the space for them. Maoist use tribals as their shield to prevent development," Paikra told Al Jazeera.

Retaliation feared

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

Civil rights groups have criticised the attack but fear the security forces would "retaliate" by targeting ordinary civilians.

"Consequent arrests, beatings and killings will only intensify the cycles of violence and counter-violence," said Dr Lakhan Singh, president of Peoples Union for Civil Liberties.

"A situation of civil war still prevails in Bastar [district in Chhattisgarh state] but the Indian government refuses to declare this an "internal armed conflict" perhaps to avoid monitoring by the UN."

The government has deployed more than 100,000 troops, one-third of them paramilitary forces, to root out the five-decade old armed rebellion.

About 35,000 central paramilitary forces and more than 20,000 state police are deployed in Bastar, which is considered a stronghold of the Maoist fighters.

India's home minister and the state's chief minister visited the survivours in hospiutal

Aljazeera

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