Maoists kill 14 in India poll-related violence
04/12/2014 14:12 GMT
RAIPUR, April 12, 2014 (AFP) - Maoist rebels killed 14 people in two poll-related blasts Saturday in an insurgency-hit region of central India, police said, highlighting the major security challenges faced in staging the nation's marathon general elections.
The violence, the deadliest since the elections began last Monday, came as Indians cast ballots in the southern resort state of Goa and in the far-flung northeast in another round of the multi-phase elections that wind up May 12 with results four days later.
Most of those killed Saturday were charged with ensuring election voter safety or other polling-related tasks.
Seven polling officials died when Maoists blew up their bus in the state of Chhattisgarh, senior police officer Gurjinder Pal Singh told AFP. Five others were injured.
"The Maoists triggered the landmine blasts," Singh, a key official in ensuring election safety in the state, told AFP.
Five security men who were carrying out an election safety sweep and who hitched a ride in an ambulance were killed in another landmine blast.
The ambulance driver and a paramedic were also killed in that blast, which created a huge crater. Four men were injured two "very seriously" Singh said.
"The security men had been securing the area for polling teams to travel," Singh said.
The Maoists have called for a boycott of the elections.
There was no voting in Chhattisgarh Saturday -- polling began there on April 10 with two more rounds scheduled in the state on April 17 and April 24.
The Maoists sometimes target ambulances, as security officials are reported to use such vehicles to attract less attention.
But in this case, Singh said the security men had taken a lift in the ambulance as it was travelling without a patient.
The blasts, less than an hour apart, came days after Maoist rebels killed three soldiers guarding polling officials in Chhattisgarh in a gunbattle.
The deaths underscored security difficulties facing election organisers in India. Separatist and Maoist insurgencies occupy large swathes of India's northeast, northwest and central regions.
The opposition Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party are tipped to win the elections, ousting the Congress party after a decade of rule.
The vote is being held in stages to allow security forces to move around the country to protect voters.
Maoist rebels killed 16 people in a massive attack on security forces in central India in March in the deadliest assault this year.
The Maoists, described by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh as the most serious internal security threat, have been fighting since 1967 for a communist society by toppling what they call India's "semi-colonial, semi-feudal" form of rule.
The insurgency has cost thousands of lives. The rebels are believed present in at least 20 states but are most active in Chhattisgarh, Orissa, Bihar, Jharkhand and Maharashtra.
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