Passenger train sabotaged, Maoists accused
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Attackers derailed a high-speed passenger train into the path of an oncoming freight train in eastern India on Friday, killing at least 80 people. Police have blamed Maoist rebels for the crash.
The incident occurred at around 1.30 am in the district of West Midnapore, a Maoist stronghold around 135 kilometres west of Kolkata.
Emergency teams expect the death toll to rise as they recover more bodies trapped in the wreckage of the 13-carriage Kolkata to Mumbai express.
More than 120 people are reported injured, several of them in critical condition.
Initial reports suggested the derailment was triggered by an explosion, but police said there was evidence that the fishplates used to secure adjoining sections of track had been deliberately removed.
“It is a clear case of sabotage. The Maoists have done it,” West Bengal police chief Bhupinder Singh told reporters, adding that Maoist leaflets were found at the scene.
The Maoist-sponsored People’s Committee against Police Atrocities has claimed responsibility for the attack, according to the Press Trust of India news agency, which reported receiving a phone call from the group.
Speaking from the scene of the crash, Railways Minister Mamata Bannerjee confirmed that Maoists were believed to be responsible.
“The railways are a soft target. They are a lifeline ... which the Maoists have attacked in the past and, it seems, even now,” she told reporters.
The attack highlights the need to review the Indian government’s counter-insurgency strategy, said West Bengal State Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharya.
The federal government launched Operation Greenhunt, a centrally co-ordinated offensive against the Maoists led by paramilitary and state police, in November 2009.
But the operation has produced few tangible results and critics have called for the army to be brought in.
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