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68 Killed As Maoist Attack Maharashtra-Bound Train


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Sixty-eight passengers of a Maharashtra-bound express train were killed early Friday and 200 injured in a Maoist attack which led to derailment of 13 coaches that were hit by a goods train coming from the opposite direction.

"The PCPA have left two posters near the rail tracks clearly owning responsibility for the derailment of the Kurla-bound Gyaneswari Express," IGP (Law and Order) S Karpurakayastha said in Kolkata.

The posters read, "We earlier demanded withdrawal of the joint security forces from Jangalmahal (West Midnapore, Bankura and Purulia) and end of CPI(M) atrocities, but those demands were not met."

Another poster demanded immediate withdrawal of the joint forces from the area.

Police have seized both posters.

By mid afternoon 68 bodies were recovered. "The toll could go up," West Bengal Home Secretary Samar Ghosh said.

The sleeping passengers were killed when a goods train rammed into four bogies of the Gyaneshwari Express that jumped rails at 1:30 am on Friday morning allegedly after fish plates were removed and portions of tracks cut out deep inside Maoist-dominated West Midnapore district of West Bengal.

"We had issued a red alert," railway board member Vivek Sahai told reporters in New Delhi.

Sahai said the deaths were mainly caused by the goods train hitting the three derailed coachs of the Howrah-Kurla Gyaneshwari Super Deluxe Express.

"There have been earlier cases of sabotage but never of this scale," the railway board member said.

Railways Minister Mamata Banerjee who reached the spot said a high level inquiry has been ordered.

"We condemn the incident. According to the information from Railways and administration, a bomb blast occurred triggering the incident. I shall write to the Union Home Minister to conduct an enquiry," said Railway minister Mamata Banerjee at the accident site.

The blast occurred when the train was running between Khemasoli and Sardiya stations, about 135 km from Kolkata, South Eastern Railway officials said.

13 bogies including the engine of the Gyaneshwari Express that had left Howrah and was heading for Kurla jumped the rails. A goods train that was coming from the opposite direction crashed on to four of the derailed bogies.

As a result, the goods train was itself derailed.

Four bogies (S4, S5, S6, S7) were smashed as relief workers desperately tried to cut through the mangled structures and bring out dead bodies. Bodies were dangling from the wreckage as the relief workers struggled with gas cutters to reach for any possible survivors.

The train was full of sleeping passengers, about 70 in each bogie, and no one was sure about the number of casualties.

Rail authorities initially claimed that an explosion in the rail tracks had triggered the incident. But police officials, after preliminary survey, indicated more than a foot of tracks were cut out and fish plates were removed.

"Law and order is a state subject and these are highly sensitive areas. Rajdhani Express was detained in this area last year. The Maoists are observing Kala Divash (Black Day) between May 28 and May 31 here," said the railway minister.

She claimed that a pilot engine passed through this route last night but didn't specify how long before the incident the patrolling took place.

This is a region where Maoists tried to disrupt trains on at least three occasions between October 27, 2009 and May 20, 2010.

The combined forces arrived after the accident. Relief workers were rushed before dawn. Indian Air Force helicopters were pressed into service at the accident spot to airlift some of the injured to the hospitals. The injured were taken to a hospital in Kharagpur.

The Railway minister announced a compensation of Rs 5 lakh for the next of kin of each of the dead and Rs 1 lakh for the injured.

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