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21 dead in joint attack by Indian, Nepalese ultras

Friday 24 June 2005

Patna, June 24. (AP): Security forces fought rebels in a fierce, all-night gun battle ending early today near India’s border with Nepal, leaving 21 dead in the first coordinated attack involving both Indian and Nepalese communist militants, police said.

The gun battle was triggered when some 400 suspected Maoist rebels attacked a police station and two state-run banks in Bihar state’s Madhuban village on Thursday, said Director-General of Police Ashish Ranjan Sinha, the state police chief.

Surprise assaults are a favorite mode of attack of Nepal’s Maoist rebels, who are known to often use villagers as human shields.

The Nepalese rebel chief Pushpa Kamal Dahal has previously said that communist rebels from Nepal and India were in close contact, but no joint attack had been reported until Thursday.

The battle in Madhuban - 150 kilometers (90 miles) north of Patna, the capital of Bihar - killed 17 militants, two police officers, one paramilitary soldier and a security guard at a government bank, said Sinha. The identity of the dead rebels could not be independently verified.

"The bodies of seven Maoists have been recovered, and a search is on for the rest," said Sinha.

Citing officers’ accounts and local intelligence, he said almost 100 Nepalese Maoists, who are fighting in the neighboring country to topple the constitutional monarchy, were involved in the attack. Nepal and India have an open border that straddles hundreds of miles of lower Himalayan terrain.

"The participation of Nepalese Maoists has been proved. This is the first time" they were involved, Sinha said.

The federal home ministry has sought a report on the attack from the government in Bihar - considered India’s most lawless state.

Communist literature in the Hindi language was found at the site of the gun battle, Sinha said.

"Seize the property of the government and hasten the people’s war," said a flyer, a copy of which was shown to journalists. It was signed by the Communist Party of India Maoist.

The rebels looted four rifles from the police station, and the gunfight began after police reinforcements opened fire on the rebels as they tried to flee to Nepal.

Maoist rebels are active in five southern and eastern Indian states. They attack police, landlords and politicians in what they claim is a fight for the rights of the poor.

On Thursday, S.K. Bhardwaj, a senior local police officer, said the suspected rebels were also looking for a lawmaker, Sita Ram Yadav, in Madhuban.

They abducted his brother, Hemandra Yadav, when they couldn’t find the lawmaker in the village, but later released him. The motive for Yadav’s abduction was not immediately known.

Sita Ram Yadav represents a powerful regional group, the Rashtriya Janata Dal, a coalition partner of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s government in New Delhi.

See online : The Hindu

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