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Maoists blamed for railway carnage in eastern India

Video by Nicholas RUSHWORTH

Text by FRANCE 24 (with wires)

Latest update : 2010-05-28

Maoist rebels have been accused of sabotaging a train track in India’s eastern state of West Bengal early Friday, causing a train collision that left more than 70 people dead and scores more injured.

Police have accused Maoist rebels of derailing a high-speed train Friday, killing at least 70 people and injuring nearly 200 others in India’s eastern state of West Bengal.

The Maoist-backed People's Committee against Police Atrocities claimed responsibility for the attack in a call to the Press Trust of India, the news agency said, although the group later denied it was involved.

Indian Railways Minister Mamata Banerjee said the train had been derailed by a "severe bomb blast." Meanwhile, officials said they were also looking at evidence that metal plates used to secure adjoining sections of track had been removed.

West Bengal Police Chief Bhupinder Singh told reporters at the crash site that Maoist leaflets were found scattered by the tracks.

The train, heading from Calcutta to Mumbai and packed with sleeping passengers, was derailed and collided with a goods train in a remote area of West Bengal.

"The priority right now is to rescue survivors", Vikram Singh, FRANCE 24’s correspondent in New Delhi, India reported.

Police warned that the death toll could rise, as scores of passengers remained trapped in the mangled wreckage of the carriages.

Railway rescue squads and security forces were assisting efforts to cut through the metal of the train compartments and reach people inside.

Maoist insurgency

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has described the insurgency as India's biggest internal security challenge.

The rebels have stepped up attacks in recent months. In April, at least 76 policemen were killed in the central state of Chhattisgarh in one of the bloodiest attacks on security forces by extremists.

The Maoist rebellion began in the West Bengal state in 1967 and has since spread across 20 of the 29 Indian states.

The rebels are based in rural, heavily forested parts of India, and say they are fighting for the rights of the poor and landless.

Date created : 2010-05-28

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