Vizag (Andhra Pradesh)/Bhubaneshwar/Malkangiri (Orissa)/Gaya, June 30 : Police and soldiers scoured a remote ravine in east India on Monday looking for dozens of anti-naxalite officers feared dead after Maoist rebels attacked and sank their boat in a reservoir on Sunday.
Police said 29 officers, some with gunshot wounds, had survived, but 37 others were still missing after the rebels fired from hilltops at their boat passing through a narrow gorge in Orissa's Malkangiri district on Sunday.
In Vizag, K. Jana Reddy, Home Minister of Andhra Pradesh, met the attack victims and pledged to flush out Maoists from the state.
"This tragedy has shattered the families of 30 police personnel, cruelty in the name of people's cause. Keeping this in view, we have taken stringent measures to put a stop to the terror unleashed by the Maoists. Neighbouring States like Orissa and Chhattisgarh have been sounded. We will not cease this operation of flushing out these anti-democratic forces and I assure you, our personnel are determined to this end," said Reddy.
Although police said the well-trained officers would be able to survive, a top official of the administration said "30-40 people" could have died in the attack.
The anti-naxalite unit was looking for rebels in their jungle stronghold when they were attacked at Balimela reservoir on the Orissa-Andhra Pradesh border, police said, adding that many of the officers jumped into the water.
In Bhubaneshwar, Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik condemned the attack terming it a 'cowardly' act.
"I deeply condemn this criminal, terrible and cowardly act by the Naxalites at the Chitrukonda. Out of the 66 persons in the boat 29 have been rescued which include two policemen from Orissa and two boatmen from our state. Search and rescue operations are going on with the help of our special operations groups. Our police, Greyhounds from Andhra Pradesh and Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), also divers from navy have arrived for the rescue operations," said Patnaik.
Moreover, the chief minister has also announced Rupees two lakh ex-gratia to ambush victims.
According to eyewitnesses, the Maoists used grenades and rockets to ambush the vessel, a claim that police denied.
Rescue workers said some policemen could have been trapped in the boat and drowned.
Meanwhile in another incident, Maoists in Bihar have tried to terrorize people by pasting posters and banners on walls of railway junction at Guraru situated in Gaya district announcing national shutdown on July 2.
The red banner and posters have caused fear amongst local travelers who now dread to commute in wake of fear of being attacked by the Maoists.
"It has caused panic amongst locals about whether they can travel or not. They are losing confidence to move outside their homes on July 2nd," said Nitin Kumar, resident.
Maoist rebels regularly kill police and attack government establishments and factories in a large swathe of eastern and central India, particularly in the countryside.
They say they are fighting for the rights of the poor and landless, an insurgency Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has described as the single biggest threat to country's internal security. It has killed thousands of people in the past four decades.