At least 17 Maoist rebels have been killed in an overnight gun battle with police in India’s central state of Chhattisgarh, officials say.
According to BBC, clashes broke out late Thursday night in the district of Bijapur, a hotbed of rebel activity. Six members of the Indian security forces were reported to have died in the fighting in the densely forested area of Basaguda.
Police told the BBC they had retrieved a large number of weapons from the area, but local villagers have organised a demonstration, claiming that most of those killed by the police were villagers, and not rebels.
According to the Agence France Presse, Indian police are searching the area for more fighters, following a Maoist ambush on police patrol in Chhattisgarh last month in which six officers and a civilian were shot dead.
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Maoist rebels have a strong presence in many Indian states, and say they are battling for the rights of tribal people and India’s poor rural population.
They have been waging an insurgency against national and state authorities for decades in a bid to establish a communist state. The government has described them as India’s greatest internal security threat.
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