NEW DELHI: Indian police on Monday killed at least 21 rebels in a shoot-out in eastern India, a local officer said, the deadliest such incident this year in a long-running Maoist insurgency.
Police said they ambushed a meeting of 30 to 40 Maoists in a forest near the border of Odisha and Andhra Pradesh states, triggering a gunbattle.
“Now 21 bodies of the Maoists have been recovered. The search operation is still on,” sub-inspector C.K. Dharua told AFP by phone from Malkangiri district in Odisha where the attack occurred.
Dharua had earlier confirmed 18 deaths but warned the toll could rise as “there was a large number of people at the meeting”.
A top Maoist leader and his son were suspected to be among those killed, the Press Trust of India news agency said, citing unnamed police.
Two police officers were also injured in the shootout that last about an hour, according to local media,
Weapons including four AK-47s and three self-loading rifles were recovered from site, some 640 kilometres (400 miles) from the state capital Bhubaneswar, Dharua said.
India’s Maoist insurgency began in the 1960s, inspired by Chinese revolutionary leader Mao Zedong, and has cost thousands of lives.
The rebels, described by former prime minister Manmohan Singh as India’s most serious internal security threat, say they are fighting authorities for land, jobs and other rights for poor tribal groups.
Monday’s gunbattle comes after 10 paramilitary commandos in eastern Bihar state were killed in July after suspected Maoist rebels ambushed their convoy and set off a series of homemade bombs. -AFP