7 Maoist rebels killed in central India gunfight

Indian Maoists ready their weapons as they take part in a training camp in a forested area of Bijapur district in the central Indian state of Chhattisgarh, on July 8, 2012. (AFP pic) 

NEW DELHI: Indian special forces killed seven suspected Maoist rebels in a raid on a jungle camp Saturday that triggered a gunfight lasting several hours, police said.

The far-left rebels in the central state of Chhattisgarh are part of a long-standing conflict that has left tens of thousands dead since the 1960s.

They were in a camp in dense forest in Rajnandgaon district, some 70 kilometres from the state capital Raipur.

“So far seven bodies have been recovered from the encounter spot,” a senior police officer in the district told AFP on condition of anonymity.

He said arms and ammunition were recovered from the camp.

Chhattisgarh is mineral-rich but among India’s poorest states, and guerrillas are demanding greater rights over land and resources.

A landmine blast on Wednesday, which killed one paramilitary, was blamed on the rebels.

Maoist-inspired insurgents in the so-called Naxalite movement are present in at least 20 Indian states but are most active in Maharashtra, Odisha, Jharkhand, Bihar, and Chhattisgarh.

The government has deployed tens of thousands of police and special commandos in a bid to eradicate the groups.