Scores killed in clashes with Maoists

Bodies of 23 troops found, more feared dead in Chhattisgarh

Raipur, July 10:

Scores of Indian troops and Maoist insurgents have been killed in one of the biggest clashes to date in the revolt-hit centre of the country, officials said today.

Police said more than 100 soldiers and armed police had been sent to investigate a tip-off on the whereabouts of a rebel camp in Chhattisgarh state yesterday. Twenty-three bodies have been found and more than 10 were missing, feared dead.

“It looks like it was a set-up,” a senior Home Ministry official, who asked not to be named, told AFP — referring to what appeared to be a well-planned ambush by the increasingly active ultra-leftist rebels.

Officials said the corpses of 23 soldiers and cops had been found in the Maraeguda jungles, around 500 km from Raipur.

“Some 25 Maoists also seemed to have been killed in the encounter,” senior police officer RK Vij said after visiting the scene of the battle, although he added that no rebel bodies had yet been found.

Officials said the police and soldiers may have been outnumbered by five to one.

“State commandos backed by commandos from Andhra Pradesh are also rushing to Dantewada,” said Abhishekh Dayal, a spokesman for the Central Reserve Police Force.

Two choppers have been sent to search for the missing troops in heavily-wooded area, with sporadic skirmishes also reported.

B. Raman, a former intelligence official said the Maoist movement had gained “a lot of public support as the Maoists are raising economic issues and causes — for instance, exploitation by landlords, taking away of forest lands.” Tens of thousands of people have been displaced in troubled Chhattisgarh by the conflict.