India Maoist rebels ‘attack police’ after peace offer

Maoist rebels have attacked a police camp in India’s West Bengal state, hours after a top Maoist leader offered a conditional ceasefire, police say.

Three rebels were killed during the clash in the Lalgarh area, police say. Activists say the killings were staged.

The government, which has launched a major offensive against the rebels, has asked for the truce offer “in writing”.

The rebels want communist rule in large parts of India. More than 6,000 people have died during their 20-year fight.

On Monday, rebel leader Koteswara Rao offered a 72-day ceasefire across central and western India – as long as a government offensive against them was halted.

Koteswara Rao, also known as Kishenji, did not however offer direct negotiations, saying the right atmosphere for talks must exist first.

‘No conditions’

Federal home minister P Chidambaram responded by saying he would like a “short simple statement” from the rebels “saying: ‘We will abjure violence and we are prepared for talks’.”

“I would like no ifs, no buts and no conditions,” he added.

Separately, senior West Bengal police official Manoj Verma told the BBC that the bodies of three rebels had been found after the attack on the camp in West Bengal.

“Villagers have told us that the escaping rebels dragged away two more bodies of their dead colleagues,” he said.

One of the dead was identified as Lalmohan Tudu, a senior leader of a Maoist-backed local militia.

Local human rights activists alleged that the police had staged the killing of the three men.

“The policemen entered a house where the three were having dinner and opened unprovoked fire, killing them,” rights activist Nisha Biswas said in a statement.

Analysts say the rebels may have offered the ceasefire to regroup and consolidate their defences in the middle of a major offensive by security forces.

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