The Maoists have heralded the start of their own campaign, dubbed ‘Operation Peace Hunt’, with a headline-grabbing attack on government forces in West Bengal. At least 21 soldiers are dead in an attack that demonstrates the weight of tactical advantage that lies in the Maoists’ favour. Able to appear from nowhere in trucks and on motorbikes, take the troops by surprise and then disappear back into the jungle, laying mines as they go to slow the progress of ambulances.
Maoist military chief Koteswara Rao – alias Kishenji – says their campaign is a response to the government’s Operation Green Hunt launched against them towards the end of last year. It seems clear that the issues underlying this conflict – the need for development, the dispossession of tribal lands and so forth – are going to get lost in all-out conflict that will ensure nothing gets resolved and lots more people get slaughtered.
UPDATE 17 FEB: The leader of this mission apparently had ‘mesmerising cobra eyes’.