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Apology for Bastar ‘mistake’

Raipur, April 14: The Maoists today apologised for killing civilians in Saturday’s twin attacks on polling staff and the CRPF in Bastar, invoking the familiar pretext of mistaken identity.

“It was a lapse on our part. It was a case of mistaken identity and a decision being taken in haste,” Maoist spokesperson Gudsa Usendi said in a media statement that followed a common pattern.

The rebels had detonated two mines 200km apart, targeting an ambulance in which a CRPF patrol was hitching a hike and a civilian bus carrying nine polling staff.

Five jawans died along with nine civilians — the ambulance driver, a paramedic, and seven polling staff, who included five schoolteachers and two forest guards.

Usendi said: “The cadres received wrong inputs about security personnel having boarded the bus. The teachers were not their enemy.”

The statement also apologised for the deaths of the driver and paramedic.

Usendi added that the Maoists had decided to conduct a high-level probe to identify the reasons for the lapse.

“The cadres had been instructed to maintain the highest precaution to protect the civilians and polling parties in the fight against security personnel,” he said.