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26 troopers killed in suspected India Maoist assault

By Harmeet Shah Singh, CNN
  • Police unit was on routine road patrol when attacked
  • In addition to 26 troopers killed, at least eight were injured
  • Maoists have been blamed for ferocious attacks on troops in recent months

New Delhi, India (CNN) -- (CNN) -- At least 26 armed police were killed in a Maoist ambush in eastern India on Tuesday, authorities said.

The assault occurred in the Narayanpur district of Chhattisgarh state, one of the regions worst-hit by Maoist attacks in recent months.

Ajay Chaturvedi, spokesman for India's Central Reserve Police Force, told CNN that at least eight personnel of the federal security group were injured in Tuesday's attack. CRPF officers were on a routine road patrol when they were ambushed by the insurgents, he explained.

India's Maoists, which the government acknowledges as the country's gravest internal-security threat, have been blamed for some of the most ferocious attacks on paramilitary troops over the past few months.

In one of their deadliest strikes on Indian forces, the rebels killed more than 70 officers in Chhattisgarh two months ago, officials said.

The left-wing guerrillas have claimed since the 1960s to be fighting for the dispossessed.

In February, India's home minister, P. Chidambaram, said more than 900 people, including almost 600 civilians, were killed in Maoist-related incidents in 2009.

Some 200 suspected rebels also were slain as government forces moved into areas under insurgent control, he said. "I am confident that the state governments concerned will gradually gain the upper hand and re-establish the authority of the civil administration," Chidambaram said at an internal security conference on February 7.

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, however, conceded last year that the nation's fight with the Maoists had fallen short of objectives.

Maoists enjoy support not only in the poorest areas and in tribal communities but also among youth and the intelligentsia, officials suspect.

"We have not achieved as much success as we would have liked in containing this menace," Singh said in September.

"It is a matter of concern that, despite our efforts, the level of violence in the affected states continues to rise."

In 2008, 1,591 Maoist rebel attacks killed 721 people, according to government officials.

In addition to targeting police, alleged police informers and people they call "class enemies," the rebels are also believed to be attacking infrastructure such as roads, bridges, railways, and power and telecommunication networks.