Over 50 police feared drowned after Maoist attack in India
More than 50 policemen were feared drowned in a reservoir in India's eastern Orissa state on Sunday after the boat ferrying them came under heavy gunfire from Maoist guerrillas, the dpa reported.
Orissa police chief Gopal Nanda said the incident took place in a remote area in the southern Malkangiri district when 64 security personnel of the Greyhound Force were headed for a joint operation against the Maoists, the PTI news agency reported.
Only eight could manage to swim to safety and many of them sustained bullet wounds.
"We cannot specify the exact number of policemen missing right now," Nanda told the PTI, adding that a search operation was launched to rescue policemen in the area located some 500 kilometres south-west of the state capital Bhubaneshwar.
But there were varying figures of policemen feared drowned in the 40 metre-deep reservoir.
In a telephone interview, Malkangiri Superintendent of Police SK Gajbhiye estimated that 42 personnel from the Greyhound Force were missing.
"The boat came under heavy gun-fire by the militants who were on top of a hill. Though the police retaliated, the rebels were successful in sinking the boat by riddling the boat with bullets and targeting its operator," Gajbhiye said.
"Many hours have elapsed since the incident in the morning but we cannot say with certainty how many have died till the bodies are found and the search operations over," he added.
The Greyhound Force is a police force set up to fight Maoist rebels in Orissa and the neighbouring Andhra Pradesh state, considered hotbeds of Maoist militancy in the country.
Maoist rebels, who claim to be fighting for the rural poor, tribal people and the landless, operate in 13 of India's 29 states. They usually target police and government installations.
Thousands of people, mostly police and paramilitary personnel and government officials, have been killed in the insurgency since the late 1960s.