India

Justice Prashant Mishra: India judge to probe Chhattisgarh Maoist attack

Man injured in the attack on Congress party officials in Chhattisgarh state, India (26 May 2013)
Image caption Dozens of people were wounded in Saturday's attack

The government in India's Chhattisgarh state has named a panel to investigate Saturday's deadly attack by Maoist rebels on a Congress party convoy.

Officials said high court judge Prashant Mishra would probe the attack and submit his report in three months.

Meanwhile, the region's top police and administration officials have been removed after criticisms that "security lapses" led to the incident.

The attack killed 24 people, including some top state politicians.

Chhattisgarh Congress party chief Nandkumar Patel, his son, and local leader Mahendra Karma were among those dead.

Former federal minister Vidya Charan Shukla was among the dozens wounded in the ambush. His condition remains serious.

The Congress politicians were returning from a campaign rally.

The rebels have said they carried out the attack to protest against the government's "anti-people policies".

Maoist rebels, also known as "Naxalites", have been operating in central and eastern India for the past four decades.

They demand land and jobs for the poor, and ultimately want to establish a "communist society" by overthrowing India's "semi-colonial, semi-feudal" form of rule.

'Never bow down'

Justice Mishra will investigate "the circumstances under which the incident occurred on 25 May, whether it could have been averted, whether there were lapses in providing adequate security, and whether all security measures were followed by security agencies as well as the organisers of the Congress party rally", Press Trust of India reported late on Tuesday night, quoting an official in the state government.

It will also examine coordination among the police and other armed forces, response of the police officials after the attack and time taken by the forces to reach the scene of the attack, the agency said.

India's top anti-terrorism agency, National Investigation Agency (NIA), is also probing the attack.

Police say the convoy carrying state Congress leaders and party workers was ambushed at around 17:30 (12:00 GMT) on Saturday as it travelled through the Darba Ghati valley, in the Sukma area about 345km (215 miles) south of the state capital, Raipur.

Police said the convoy was first forced to stop by felled trees on the road. At least one vehicle at the front of the convoy was then hit by a land-mine blast before as many as 200 suspected rebels opened fire, they added.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who along with the Congress party chief Sonia Gandhi visited the wounded in the hospital a day after the attack, said India would "never bow down" before the rebels.

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