Maoist rebels threaten to attack Indian cities

New Delhi: A top Maoist guerrilla leader threatened to attack Indian cities such as Kolkata if the government does not immediately agree to hold peace talks, according to a news report on Sunday.

Kishenji, a Maoist leader in eastern India, said the Indian government has not responded to his call for a 72-day cease-fire to allow peace negotiations, the Sunday Times reported.

Kishenji, who uses one name, threatened in an interview to strike Indian cities and towns if the government does not begin talks immediately, the newspaper said.

So far, the insurgents have largely attacked security forces, government workers and train lines in rural areas.

Home Minister Palaniappan Chidambaram said last month that the government would only hold talks with the rebels if they shun violence and there were no preconditions, such as a halt to the government’s “Operation Green Hunt” offensive aimed at flushing the militants out of their forest hide-outs.

Government officials also say the Maoists are not serious about peace talks and want to use a truce to regroup and rearm themselves. Inspired by Chinese revolutionary leader Mao Zedong, the rebels have fought for more than four decades for land and jobs for farmers and the poor.

About 2,000 people – including police, militants and civilians – have been killed in the past few years.

The rebels, who have tapped into the rural poor’s growing anger at being left out of the country’s economic gains, are now present in 20 of the country’s 28 states and have an estimated 10,000 to 20,000 fighters.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has called them India’s biggest internal security threat.

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