PATNA, India (AP) — At least six police officials were killed and another was critically injured on Sunday when Maoist rebels targeted their vehicle with a bomb in eastern India, police said.
The rebels detonated a land mine as the police vehicle ran over it in Dantewada district of Chhattisgarh state, said D.M. Awasthi, the chief of counterinsurgency operations in the state. The explosion extensively damaged the vehicle.
Awasthi said the police were escorting a truck carrying material to a road construction site in a forested area when the rebels triggered the blast.
Five police officials died at the scene of the blast. Two others were critically injured and sent to a hospital, where one of them later died, police said.
Reinforcements of police and paramilitary soldiers rushed to the scene and launched a hunt to track down the attackers.
The Maoist rebels, inspired by Chinese revolutionary leader Mao Zedong, have been fighting the Indian government for more than four decades, demanding land and jobs for tenant farmers, the poor and indigenous communities.
The government has called the rebels India's biggest internal security threat. With thousands of fighters, the rebels control vast swaths of area in the country.
The rebels, also known as Naxalites, have ambushed police, destroyed government offices and abducted government officials for more than four decades. The insurgency began in 1967 as a network of left-wing ideologues and young recruits in the village of Naxalbari outside Kolkata, the capital of West Bengal state.
They have blown up train tracks, attacked prisons to free their comrades and stolen weapons from police and paramilitary warehouses to arm themselves.
Last month, authorities said troops killed at least 44 suspected rebels in multiple raids in western India.