Night trains suspended after deadly India crash

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

Railway officials in eastern India have cancelled night trains in Maoist-affected areas in the wake of a crash that left at least 142 people dead.

Police say Maoist rebels sabotaged the track, causing the derailment of the Calcutta-Mumbai express in the Jhargram area of West Midnapore on Friday.

A Maoist spokesman denied the charge.

The area is known to be a stronghold of the Maoists, who say they are fighting for the rights of tribespeople and the rural poor.

Railway officials said they would not run any night trains in Maoist areas for the next four days, while a Maoist protest takes place.

The crash happened in the early hours of Friday about 150km (90 miles) west of Calcutta.

Police said a 46cm (1.5ft) portion of the train track had been removed, causing several carriages of the passenger train to derail and smash into an oncoming goods train.

On Sunday, railway spokesman Soumitra Mazumdar told the Associated Press the track had been repaired and "normal traffic" had resumed, although drivers had been advised to travel slowly through the affected stretch.

Daylight travel

Rescuers continued to pull bodies from the wreckage over the weekend.

"We have more or less cleared the whole wreckage but a few bodies may still be found," said railway spokesman Soumitra Majumder on Sunday.

He said many of the bodies could not be identified as they were so badly damaged.

Relatives of those on board the train had been asked to report to hospitals to give blood samples to help the identification, said Mr Majumder.

Scores more people were injured in the crash, many of them seriously.

Police say they have "definite evidence" that Maoists were behind the disaster.

They say a group of Maoist rebels forced a railway worker at gunpoint to unfasten links on the rails.

"We have identified the people who are behind the incident. These are Maoists and we are trying to trace them and bring them to justice," said senior police official Manoj Verma.

The Maoists have denied responsibility for the incident and blamed the sabotage on the ruling Marxists.

"They have done it and then blamed us, so that the people start doubting our intentions," Maoist spokesman "Comrade" Akaash told the BBC.

In the wake of the crash, Indian Railways said passenger trains would not run on two key sections of line in West Bengal between the hours of 2200 and 0500.

The restrictions would be in place until 0500 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.

The Maoist "black week" of protests and education campaigning is due to end on 2 June.

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

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