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India man survives attack hidden under beheaded men

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SENARI, India -- The lone survivor of India's latest caste massacre described Friday how he hid under the bodies of his neighbors as Maoist guerrillas beheaded the upper-caste villagers.

Sunil Sharma, 22, his clothes stained with the blood of other victims, was in a state of shock and could barely speak a day after the attack in Senari. The village is 525 miles southeast of New Delhi in Jehanabad, a district at the center of a caste war raging in Bihar, India's most lawless state.About 100 attackers entered Senari just before midnight Thursday and dragged away 34 men, all upper-caste landowners. Their hands and feet bound, the victims were summarily beheaded outside the village, Sharma said. Sharma said the rebels overlooked him under the bodies.

Police had first reported that Maoist rebels sprayed the upper-caste villagers with bullets, killing 35. The death toll was confirmed at 33 today, and all were beheaded instead of shot.

Leaflets left by the attackers said the killings were in retaliation for earlier slayings of Dalits, a group who are without caste in Hinduism's hierarchy, making them the lowest group. The Dalits, whose name means the "oppressed ones," are poor, uneducated farm laborers.

The leaflets and posters left by the attackers identified them as members of the banned Maoist Communist Center and threatened further massacres if Dalits were harmed. An earlier television report had initially reported that the pamphlets identified the attackers as members of the People's War Group.

Over the past six weeks, 33 Dalits in the district were killed by the Ranvir Sena, a private army suspected of receiving arms and funding from upper-caste landowners.