Indian police kill leading Maoist guerrilla

KOLKATA, India —Police on Thursday killed one of India’s most wanted Maoist guerrillas in a major blow to the armed leftwing insurgency which has spread across a wide swathe of the South Asian country.

Police in the eastern state of West Bengal said the 58-year-old guerrilla commander was shot dead in a gunbattle with policemen in a forest of West Midnapore district.

Koteswar Rao, better known as Kishenji, was wanted for the massacre of 24 paramilitary soldiers last year in Pashimbanga and several other attacks on government targets in the region.

Kishenji’s killing is a “huge setback for the Maoists as he was number three in the hierarchy,” Indian Home Secretary R.K. Singh said in New Delhi.

The slain rebel, who never showed his face to journalists during various media events, came under massive pressure after New Delhi launched a security operation to flush out Maoist guerrillas from their strongholds in 2009.

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