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Page last updated at 17:36 GMT, Friday, 26 June 2009 18:36 UK

Indian forces clash with Maoists

Paramilitary soldiers patrol at Lalgarh in west Midnapore 175 kilometers (109 miles) west from Calcutta, India, Tuesday, June 23, 2009
Indian forces have received support from police in neighbouring states

Indian security forces have clashed with Maoist guerrillas as they launched fresh operations against rebel strongholds, officials say.

They say that the latest fighting has taken place in an embattled enclave in the state of West Bengal.

Security forces say they have consolidated their grip on Lalgarh and troops are now fanning out.

They say that they have launched a determined campaign to retrieve territory and re-impose control.

The state government says that it briefly lost control in Lalgarh earlier this month after Maoist rebels drove out local police.

The insurgents have been active in the area since November 2008.

But the security forces have been been bolstered by the arrival of more police from the neighbouring state of Jharkhand.

The BBC's Subhir Bhaumik in Calcutta says that troops, having secured Lalgarh, are now trying to force the Maoists out of the entire Jangalmahal region of West Bengal bordering Jharkhand.

The security forces say that they want to open routes between various key locations in the area so that Maoists will find it more difficult to operate in the villages.

Our correspondent says that such area domination needs numerical superiority - the forces now outnumber the Maoists 10 to one, but the Maoists know the jungles better and can survive better in the deep forests because their fighters are from local tribes or highly motivated veterans.

Maoist-linked violence has killed 6,000 people in India over the past 20 years.

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has described the Maoists as the greatest threat to India's internal security.

Troop movements

The BBC's Amitabha Bhattsali is with the paramilitary columns as they fan out.

"They are moving in a single column to avoid casualties in a possible ambush," he said.

"Minesweeping vehicles have cleared the roads but the troops are cautious. They are looking out for explosives, especially under wooden bridges," he reported from Lalgarh.

West Bengal's chief minister Buddhadev Bhattacharya has rejected Maoist offers of talks, saying "they must first surrender their weapons and stop the violence".

The violence in Lalgarh began last November after Mr Bhattacharya narrowly escaped a landmine blast blamed on the rebels.

Protests were launched when a number of locals were arrested on suspicion of attempting to assassinate him.


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