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India Maoist train sabotage toll climbs to 146

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KOLKATA – Indian rescue workers completed search operations on Sunday after pulling out 146 bodies from the site of a train wreck blamed on Maoist saboteurs, a state minister said.

The precise cause of the derailment was still unclear

The crash occurred on Friday when a Mumbai-bound high-speed passenger express from Kolkata veered off the tracks into the path of an oncoming freight train in a remote part of West Bengal state.

If confirmed as a Maoist strike, it would be the deadliest attack by the rebels in recent memory.

The government has recently been severely criticised for its handling of the worsening left-wing insurgency.

“Teams have pulled 146 bodies from the damaged carriages of the train. Now we are concentrating on hospitals because more than 200 injured are still there,” West Bengal civil defence minister Srikumar Mukherjee told AFP.

Relief and rescue workers rushed to the site — a Maoist stronghold around 135 kilometres (85 miles) west of Kolkata — and used mechanical cutters to reach the injured and the dead inside the badly mangled carriages.

The precise cause of the derailment was still unclear.

Railways Minister Mamata Banerjee initially said Maoists had blown up the track with explosives, while police pointed to evidence that a section of rail had been manually removed.

The Times of India on Sunday said police believed a “rogue Maoist gang” was behind the carnage.

Mukherjee said many of the bodies were badly dismembered and identification of the remains by relatives was proving to be a big challenge.

“We have urged the next of kin of the victims to donate blood to the Central Forensic Laboratory in Kolkata so that the bodies can be identified” by DNA testing, he said.

The Indian Railways Board responded to the disaster by cancelling nighttime services in a number of Maoist-affected areas until further notice.

The rebels say they are fighting for the rights of landless tribespeople and farmers left behind by India’s rapid economic expansion.

The Maoist rebellion, which Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has labelled the biggest threat to the country’s internal security, began in West Bengal in 1967 and has since spread to 20 of India’s 29 states.