South Asia

India police find Maoist mass grave in Jharkhand

Local people carry the bodies
Image caption The Maoists generally carry away or bury the bodies of their fighters killed in clashes

A mass grave with bodies of 14 Maoist rebels has been found in the eastern Indian state of Jharkhand, police say.

The grave was found on a hill in a forest on the border of Ranchi and Khunti districts - a Maoist stronghold.

Police said they believed the rebels died in clashes with the security forces and were buried by the Maoists who generally do not let troops take away the bodies of their fighters.

The rebels say they are fighting for the rights of the tribals and the poor.

They are active in several eastern and central states.

In one of the most deadly attacks last year, rebels killed 74 policemen in the neighbouring state of Chhattisgarh last year.

India's prime minister has described the Maoist insurgency as the country's biggest internal security challenge.

Police and paramilitary personnel were on a search operation in the area when local people told them about the presence of a mass grave, Jharkhand's police chief Gauri Shankar Rath said.

When the forces searched the area, they found the bodies buried in a big ditch.

The rebels were believed killed a while ago in an encounter or a series of clashes with the security forces, Mr Rath said.

Police said they were not sure when the bodies could have been buried since there were no eyewitnesses.

But, they said, there were no plans to do any carbon dating to check when the burials took place.

Local people said the bodies bore bullet wounds and some of them wore uniforms.

It is widely believed that the Maoists have buried their dead in mass graves in the conflict zone of central and eastern India - particularly in the Bastar region of southern Chhattisgarh and the forests of Jharkhand.

More on this story