PATNA, India (AP) — Indian police said they killed at least 12 Maoist rebels, including six women, in a raid Friday on a forested hideout in eastern India.
Senior police officer D.M. Awasthy said police, acting on intelligence, raided the stronghold in Bijapur district of Chhattisgarh state.
He said police recovered 12 bodies and some arms and ammunition after an exchange of gunfire. The area is about 415 kilometers (260 miles) south of Raipur, the state capital.
One police officer was killed in the joint operation by Chhattisgarh state police and the Greyhounds, a special police force in neighboring Telangana state created to fight the rebels.
Those killed included a key Maoist leader, Haribhushan, the secretary of the outlawed Communist Party of India (Maoist) who has been trying to strengthen the group in Telangana state, another police officer said.
Haribhushan, who used one name, was facing charges of murder and attempted murder, and the government had offered a reward of 3 million rupees ($46,000) to anyone providing information leading to his arrest, the officer said on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to reporters.
The government says the insurgents, inspired by Chinese revolutionary leader Mao Zedong, are the country’s most serious internal security threat. The rebels control large swaths of area in central and eastern India and are active in 20 of India’s 29 states.
In their deadliest attack, the rebels killed 76 paramilitary soldiers in Chhattisgarh state in 2010.
The rebels, also known as Naxalites, have ambushed police, destroyed government offices and abducted government officials for decades. They have blown up train tracks, attacked prisons to free their comrades and stolen weapons from police and paramilitary warehouses.
The insurgency began in 1967 as a network of left-wing ideologues and young recruits in the village of Naxalbari outside Kolkata, the capital of West Bengal state.
The rebels are estimated to have thousands of fighters and have pledged to violently overthrow the central government.
Associated Press writer Omer Farooq in Hyderabad, India, contributed to this report.