Maoists kill 18 policemen in Maharashtra
The incident occurred near Laheri village when a police patrol was wending its way through the thick forests, around one km from the village, an official of Gadchiroli district police told IANS.
Initial reports had said only two policemen were injured. However, the news of the killings came in a couple of hours later, he said.
The attack - the second in less than 18 hours - came a day after Home Minister P. Chidambaram appealed to Maoists to shun violence before a dialogue with the government.
Additional security forces have surrounded the affected region and combing operations to search for the killers are underway.
Reports received by the district police indicate that a gang of more than 150 Maoists were involved in the attack.
In another incident, a gang of Maoists set fire to a village panchayat building in Gadchiroli late Wednesday evening.
The official said that Maoists torched the Ramgad village panchayat building, burning all records, furniture and fittings there.
The rebels followed it with the attack Thursday afternoon. At around 1 p.m., a gang of over 150 Maoists attacked a police patrol party in the forests, killing at least 18 security personnel.
Senior police and civil officials are keeping a close tab on the situation especially since the incidents come barely five days before the Maharashtra assembly elections Oct 13.
Among the worst-hit by Maoist violence, Gadchiroli district in eastern Maharashtra is situated around 180 km from here and 1,200 km from Mumbai.