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Suspected Maoists launch attacks in India

  • Story Highlights
  • Maoists call for a two-day strike over planned offensive, police say
  • Indian authorities want to control rebel strongholds until governance is established
  • Forces expected to be moved to eastern India in operation expected to last a year
  • Maoists say they are fighting to defend the rights of the poor
By Harmeet Shah Singh
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NEW DELHI, India (CNN) -- Suspected Maoists blew up a railway track, a bridge and fired at a bus Monday in eastern India ahead of a planned crackdown by paramilitaries and police.

The attacks were in mineral-rich Jharkhand state, said S.N. Pradhan, inspector general of police. The rebels also blocked a highway and burned down a truck before fleeing, he said.

Maoists have called for a two-day strike over what they allege is an undemocratic government plan to launch an offensive in areas under their control, Pradhan said. They are also protesting the arrest of some of their senior leaders, he added.

Indian authorities plan to use state police, paramilitaries and special squads to fight Maoists, considered the biggest threat to internal security, according to a senior federal official.

The new plan focuses on wresting rebel strongholds and holding on to them until governance is established.

It will launch in less than two weeks in two of the 11 rebel strongholds that have been initially chosen for the operation, said Kashmir Singh, the home ministry's joint secretary for Maoist management.

Forces are expected to be moved to eastern India -- on the border between Jharkhand and West Bengal states -- in a military operation expected to last a year.

They have been deployed to Gadchiroli district in western Maharashtra state, where a massive manhunt was launched after last week's killing of 17 police officers.

Maoists, known as the Naxalites, say they are fighting to defend the rights of the poor. They now have influence in 20 of the country's 28 states, according to the government.

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said the nation's fight with the rebels has fallen short of its objectives.

"We have not achieved as much success as we would have liked in containing this menace," Singh said last month. "It is a matter of concern that despite our efforts, the level of violence in the affected states continues to rise."

Last year, 1,591 Maoist rebel attacks killed 721 people, government officials said. About 600 people have died so far this year in more than 1,400 rebel attacks.

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

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