Rebels in India blow up two tour boats

Suspected rebels in southern India hijacked two packed tour boats, let the 200 Indian sightseers get off and then blew up the boats, an official said Monday. Police killed four of the militants as they tried to flee.

The militants, believed to be from a communist insurgency in Andhra Pradesh state, told the tourists that they were retaliating against Friday's killing of nine of their fighters by police in a densely forested area of the state, said the state's home minister, K. Jana Reddy.

The tour boats were carrying sightseeers to an island in the Krishna River. The militants freed the passengers and crew and then blew up the boats with explosives, he said. Police later killed four suspected rebels as they tried to flee, Reddy said.

The rebels, who claim to be inspired by Chinese revolutionary Mao Zedong, have been fighting for more than two decades in several Indian states, demanding land and jobs for agricultural laborers and the poor. Thousands of people have been killed.

In the past, the rebels have often targeted police and government officials, whom they accuse of colluding with landlords and rich farmers to exploit the poor, reports the AP.

I.L.