KOLKATA (Reuters) - Maoists rebels set off a landmine under a security vehicle, blowing it high into the air and killing at least 23 policemen and a civilian in Chhattisgarh, officials said on Sunday.
Three policemen were wounded in the blast, one critically.
The explosion occurred late on Saturday near the remote and impoverished Dantewada district, some 500 km south of the state capital, Raipur.
"At least 23 policemen and a civilian were killed in the massive attack," Chhattisgarh home minister Ramvichar Netam told Reuters by telephone from Raipur.
"The explosion was so powerful that it blew the vehicle about 30 ft in the air. The vehicle was torn apart and it came crashing down with its occupants."
Inspector general of police M.W. Ansari said the landmine had been planted close to a culvert along a forested stretch in the remote district that is known to be a Maoist stronghold.
Thousands have died in three decades of Maoist insurgency across eight Indian states. Rebels have killed politicians and policemen and blasted factories and government offices.
Last month, Maoists killed 10 people, including a lawmaker and a government official, in an ambush in Andhra Pradesh.
The rebels say they are fighting for the rights of peasants and landless labourers in the country's rural hinterland, often holding their own courts to resolve disputes and killing officials they believe are corrupt.
Maoist rebels in Nepal fighting to overthrow the nation's monarchy and their Indian counterparts vowed last week to join together to promote communism, reinforcing fears that the bloody insurgency in the Himalayan kingdom could spill over into India.
In August, India's home ministry said there were about 9,300 armed Maoist rebels in the country, adding that social and economic disparities in states like Chhattisgarh and Andhra Pradesh were a key reason for the Maoists' influence.
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