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15 CRPF men die in Maoist landmine blast in Maharashtra

New Delhi, March 27 (Reuters): A landmine triggered by suspected Maoist guerrillas killed at least 15 policemen in Pushtola district of Maharashtra on Tuesday, several TV channels reported, the latest sign of the rebels' strength just days after they abducted two Italians and a tribal MLA from Odisha.

The personnel from the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) were travelling on a bus in a remote district when the blast hit, the reports said.

A CRPF spokesman declined to comment or confirm any details of the attack when contacted by Reuters.

On Sunday, a different group of Maoists in Odisha released an Italian tourist they had held hostage for nearly two weeks, in what was believed to be the first abduction of foreigners in the conflict. Another Italian and the MLA were still being held captive.

The government calls the fighters India's main internal security threat and an obstacle to higher growth and more jobs in Asia's third-largest economy. Hundreds die annually, although levels of violence have fallen in recent years.