PATNA, India (AP) — Dozens of suspected Maoist rebels fired at a passenger train passing through their stronghold in eastern India on Thursday, killing three people and injuring two others, police said.
The attackers, estimated to be about 100, surrounded the train near Jamui, a small town 230 kilometers (140 miles) southeast of Patna, the Bihar state capital, police officer S.K. Bhardwaj said.
One of the two drivers stopped the train on seeing the suspected rebels and fled, Bhardwaj told reporters.
The dead were a security guard and two passengers, he said.
Two other people, including the other train driver, suffered bullet wounds, Bhardwaj said.
Police officer Abhyanand, who uses only one name, said the attackers fled into a forested area after security guards on the train fired back.
Bhardwaj said the motive of the attack appeared to be to loot the guards' weapons as the suspected rebels took two guns. The train carrying 1,500 people later resumed its journey.
India's junior Home Minister R.P.N. Singh denounced the attack and said it was unfortunate that Maoists had started targeting trains and political rallies and killing people in a barbaric manner.
The Asian Centre for Human Rights condemned the attack "as an act of terrorism," saying in a statement that civilians should never be military targets.
Last month, nearly 200 suspected Maoist rebels set off a land mine and opened fire on a convoy of cars carrying local leaders and supporters of India's ruling Congress party after a political rally in Chhattisgarh state, also in the country's east. The attack left 28 dead and 24 others hurt.
Thursday's attack was also in a known stronghold of rebels who have been fighting in several Indian states for more than 40 years, and claim inspiration from Chinese revolutionary leader Mao Zedong. They demand land and jobs for impoverished tribal communities they say are ignored by the government.
India's Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has called the rebels India's biggest internal security threat. They operate in 20 of India's 28 states and have thousands of fighters, according to the Home Ministry.