RAIPUR: India's Maoist rebels have issued a public apology after a deadly weekend landmine attack on a bus carrying election officials, calling it a "big mistake".
Seven temporary workers for the Election Commission were killed last Saturday in the restive central state of Chhattisgarh when the bus they were travelling in exploded.
It was one of two deadly attacks on the same day, with five paramilitaries killed in another landmine explosion in Chhattisgarh.
In a statement received by AFP on Tuesday, the Maoists said they targeted the bus because they had mistakenly assumed it was packed with security personnel.
"Those who have died were not our enemies. It was an incident which was caused because of our negligence."
"We are taking it very seriously," a spokesman for the Maoists said in the statement.
"Please don't treat it as an act of human rights violation. It was a big mistake that happened because of a serious lapse in our judgement."
Several of those who were killed on the bus were teachers, according to Indian media reports.
The attacks have heightened fears of unrest in the Maoists' stronghold during the nationwide elections which began on April 7 but are being boycotted by the Maoists.
The rebels have been waging a deadly campaign since 1967 for a communist society, pledging to topple what they call India's "semi-colonial, semi-feudal" form of rule.
The insurgency has cost tens of thousands of lives, with some of the deadliest violence focused around the so-called "Red Corridor" stretching through central and eastern India. (AFP)