Maoist rebels kill 15 policemen in India
Fifteen police officers were killed in the western Indian state of Maharashtra in a shoot-out with leftist militants, police said yesterday.
They were ambushed Sunday in jungle near a village in the east of the state, a stronghold of so-called Naxalites -- Communist-, Maoist- and Marxist-inspired groups who claim to represent oppressed, landless rural dwellers.
"The patrolling party was ambushed by the Naxalites and 15 of our men died. The encounter went on for nearly one and a half to two hours," state police chief AN Roy told AFP by telephone.
"Our people also fired, killing and injuring some Naxalites."
Roy said there were regular skirmishes between police and militants in the area, which is close to the border with neighbouring Madhya Pradesh and some 1,000 kilometres (620 miles) by road from the Maharahstra state capital Mumbai.
Indian media on Monday said the militants fled with police weapons, including automatic assault rifles and a mortar shell. But Roy categorically denied reports that the policemen's bodies were mutilated.
The worst Naxalite attack on police in Maharashtra had shocked the force, the officer said, adding that there was a "renewed determination" to tackle the militants.
"We will continue the fight and not let their sacrifices go in vain," he said.
The Maoist insurgency, which grew out of a peasant uprising in 1967, his hit more than half of India's 29 states and the rebels use a heavily forested region in Chhattisgarh as their headquarters.