RANCHI (India), April 22: Maoist rebels, some armed with bows and arrows, briefly hijacked a train with around 500 passengers in eastern India on Wednesday in a show of strength on the eve of the second stage of India’s general election.
About 300 Maoists boarded the train and forced the driver at gunpoint to take it to Latehar station in a remote area around 160 kilometres (100 miles) west of Ranchi, the capital of Jharkhand state, before they fled four hours later.
“All the passengers have been released and they are safe,” Sarvendu Tathagat, a local government official in Jharkhand, said. “They (the rebels) left the train and fled into the jungles.”
India’s Maoist rebels, who say they are fighting for the rights of landless labourers and poor farmers, have stepped up attacks in their strongholds in central and eastern India during the election.
Rebels have called a strike in the region to protest the killing of some villagers branded as Maoist supporters by police.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has described Maoist violence as India’s biggest internal security threat. Some 500 civilians and police were killed in insurgent clashes last year. Maoists have taken over trains in past years in a show of strength, often holding them up for several hours.—Reuters