Page last updated at 15:24 GMT, Monday, 30 June 2008 16:24 UK

India police survive rebel attack

By Sandeep Sahu
BBC News, Bhubaneswar

Security personnel being airlifted to hospital, Orissa, 30 june 008
Helicopters ferried the wounded security personnel to hospital

Twenty-six members of an elite Indian anti-insurgency force have swum to safety after their boat sank following an attack by Maoist rebels.

More than 30 others are missing presumed dead after the clash in eastern Orissa state on Sunday.

Police say the rebels - who have been fighting the Indian government for decades - opened fire from a hilltop.

The sinking of the launch is a major setback for the security forces, who are accused of poor planning.

The Maoists are active in many states across east and central India.

They say they represent the rights of landless farmhands and tribal communities. Hundreds of people have died in the insurgency.

'Sitting ducks'

Some 64 people, including 57 elite "greyhound force" personnel from neighbouring Andhra Pradesh state, were aboard the motor launch.


It was attacked shortly before midday on Sunday as it crossed the Chitrakonda reservoir in Malkangiri district on the Orissa-Andhra Pradesh border.

The thickly forested region has long been considered a safe haven for the Maoists.

Heavily armed rebels opened fire from a hilltop at a place called Alampetta - it is assumed they had prior information about the movement of the security forces.

The insurgents are believed to have used rocket launchers and light machine guns in the attack.

A massive rescue operation was launched after the boat capsized to search for survivors and flush out rebels.

Helicopters have been assisting local divers and fire brigade personnel.

Police sources say 11 of the 26 who swam ashore sustained serious gunshot injuries.

"The ultras were at an advantage as they were atop a hill while the forces were in deep waters," Malkangiri superintendent of police Satish Kumar Gajbhiye said.

Security experts say it was a clear case of lack of adequate planning on the part of the security forces.

"Why did they all have to cram into one boat - and that too without any helicopter cover - when its capacity is no more than 40-45 persons," said one retired police official.

"They were like sitting ducks."

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Aftermath of the Maoist attack

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