Maoist rebels have killed 14 people in two poll-related blasts in an insurgency-hit region of central India, police say, highlighting the major security challenges faced in staging the nation’s marathon general elections.
The violence, the deadliest since the elections began last Monday, came as Indians cast ballots in the southern resort state of Goa and in the far-flung northeast in another round of the multi-phase elections that wind up May 12 with results four days later.
Most of those killed on Saturday were charged with ensuring election voter safety or other polling-related tasks.
Seven polling officials died when Maoists blew up their bus in the state of Chhattisgarh, senior police officer Gurjinder Pal Singh said on Saturday. Five others were injured.
“The Maoists triggered the landmine blasts,” said Singh, a key official in ensuring election safety in the state.
Five security men who were carrying out an election safety sweep and who hitched a ride in an ambulance were killed in another landmine blast.
The ambulance driver and a paramedic were also killed in that blast, which created a huge crater. Four men were injured two “very seriously”, Singh said.
The Maoists have called for a boycott of the elections.
There was no voting in Chhattisgarh on Saturday – polling began there on April 10 with two more rounds scheduled in the state on April 17 and April 24.
The Maoists sometimes target ambulances, as security officials are reported to use such vehicles to attract less attention.
But in this case, Singh said the security men had taken a lift in the ambulance as it was travelling without a patient.
The blasts, less than an hour apart, came days after Maoist rebels killed three soldiers guarding polling officials in Chhattisgarh in a gunbattle.
The deaths underscored security difficulties facing election organisers in India. Separatist and Maoist insurgencies occupy large swathes of India’s northeast, northwest and central regions.