NEW DELHI, India – Suspected communist rebels armed with rifles, hand grenades and petrol bombs attacked a police post in the jungles of eastern India on Thursday, killing at least 49 officers, police said.
The pre-dawn attack appeared to have caught the 79 officers guarding the remote post by surprise, police officer N. K. Swarnkar told The Associated Press in a telephone interview.
Another 12 officers were wounded in the attack, Swarnkar said.
The post is located in the state of Chattisgarh, nearly 930 miles southeast of New Delhi.
Before fleeing with weapons stolen from the police post, the attackers scattered land mines around the area, making it difficult for security forces to give chase after them, he said.
The assault was the latest in a series of attacks on security forces in region, where widespread poverty has fueled a lengthy insurgency.
More than 6,000 people — police, soldiers, and civilians — have been killed since the rebels launched their campaign from the southern Indian state of Andhra Pradesh more than two decades ago.
The rebels, who claim to be inspired by Chinese revolutionary Mao Zedong, have been fighting in several Indian states, demanding land and jobs for agricultural laborers and the poor.
The rebels, known as Naxalites from the Naxalbari region where the movement was born, are mainly active in six of India's 28 states — Andhra Pradesh, Jharkhand, Bihar, Karnataka, Orissa and Chattisgarh.