updated 6/1/2006 1:01:26 PM ET 2006-06-01T17:01:26

A land mine believed planted by communist rebels killed 12 officers from a paramilitary police force Thursday in eastern India, an official said.

The officers from the Central Reserve Police Force were heading back to their base in the state of Jharkhand after defusing land mines when their jeep struck a mine, said the state’s top police officer, B.C. Verma.

The explosion took place near the village of Karampada, about 155 miles south of Jharkhand’s capital, Patna, he said.

The area is in a remote part of the state and initial reports had said five officers were killed while clearing land mines at a school.

The rebels, who say they are inspired by Chinese revolutionary Mao Zedong, have been fighting for more than two decades, demanding land and jobs for agricultural laborers and the poor.
The rebels have often targeted police and government officials, whom they accuse of colluding with landlords and rich farmers to exploit the poor.

The militants, known as Naxalites, are mainly active in six of India’s 28 states — Andhra Pradesh, Jharkhand, Bihar, Karnataka, Orissa and Chattisgarh.

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