India train sabotage toll rises to 145
The death toll in a train crash blamed on Maoist rebels in eastern India reached 145 Sunday, as rescue efforts ended after two days, DPA reported.
Police said insurgents sabotaged the rail track, causing the derailment of the Kolkata-Mumbai express in the Jhargram area of West Bengal state early Friday.
"More bodies were found in devastated coaches and some injured died at the hospitals, bringing the toll to 145," police inspector KC Mondal said by telephone.
"The search operations which have lasted over 50 hours are nearly complete," he said.
Railway officials claimed the rebels had blown up tracks but state police officials said a 45-centimetre portion of the track had been removed.
The passenger train went off the rails and its carriages were smashed by a freight train coming from the opposite direction.
Police said a local militia called People's Committee against Police Atrocities had claimed responsibility for the attack.
State police chief Bhupinder Singh said a group of 12 rebels had visited the site hours before the accident, NDTV network reported.
Police said the rebels targeted the train on the first day of their "black week" across five states to protest an armed offensive and government economic policies.
But Maoists denied involvement in the derailment.
"We are in no way involved in this incident. Attempts are being made to brand us as terrorists and thus isolate us from the people," said Aakash, state committee leader from the Communist Party of India (Maoist) said.
More than 150 injured people were admitted at local hospitals while the critically injured were under treatment at Kolkata. Thirty-eight people were said to be in a serious condition.
Armed insurgents operate in some of India's poorest districts, especially forested land populated by tribal people that have seen little development.
On April 6, the rebels ambushed and killed 76 troopers. On May 17, the rebels blew up a bus in Chhattisgarh state, killing at least 36 people, including 12 policemen.
Nearly 1,500 people have been killed since January 2009 in violence linked to the insurgency, which Prime Minster Manmohan Singh called the gravest internal threat facing India.