South Asia

Maoist leader promises 'security' for Indian trains

A crane lifts a carriage in West Bengal, India (29 May 2010)
Image caption Police say they have "definite evidence" of Maoist involvement

A Maoist leader in India has said that they will take "full responsibility" for the safety of trains travelling through areas under their control.

Comrade Akaash's statement comes after the rebels were blamed for Friday's train crash which left 148 people dead.

Police say Maoist rebels sabotaged the track, causing the derailment of the Calcutta-Mumbai express in West Bengal.

Maoists denied the charge. But Comrade Akaash also said they would investigate whether any rebels were involved.

Railway officials in eastern India have cancelled night trains in Maoist-affected areas after Friday's incident.

'Definite evidence'

Comrade Akaash told the BBC that they were "appealing" to the railways to run trains through rebel strongholds even during the night.

"We are promising total security to all trains. We will not allow anyone to attack any train anywhere in the country and those trying to do it will face stern punishment," he said.

The railways have not reacted to the statement.

Police say they have "definite evidence" that a local rebel Maoist militia were behind the disaster - they have named two militia leaders as the prime suspects.

One of the suspects, Umakanta Mahato, was arrested last June and charged with sedition and waging war against the state.

But he was released on bail in December, and the police did not contest the bail, court records say.

Independent lawyers are asking why the police did not contest the bail plea of a senior Maoist militia leader.

Railway officials in eastern India have cancelled night trains in Maoist-affected areas after Friday's incident.

The restrictions would be in place until 0500 [2330GMT] on 3 June, the company said.

Report said other services were being rescheduled to ensure they travelled through Maoist areas of eastern India in daylight.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has described the Maoist insurgency as India's biggest internal security challenge.

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