6 dead in India gun battle

2012-04-06 12:02

New Delhi - At least six suspected Maoist rebels and a trooper were killed in a gun battle in India's eastern state of Jharkhand, police said on Friday.

The clash occurred in a forested region in the Latehar district late on Thursday after police received information about the presence of top commanders of the banned Communist Party of India (Maoist) in the area.

"There was a fierce gun battle, which continued for about five hours," district police chief KK Gardeshi said by telephone.

"From the reports of our forces on the ground as well as those of villagers, we can confirm six militants were killed in the encounter," he said.

No bodies had been recovered hours after the clash. The Maoists usually remove the bodies of their fighters to avoid identification.

Two soldiers from the counterinsurgency paramilitary force were injured and one died on Friday morning, Gardeshi said.

More than one-third of India's 626 administrative districts are affected by the Maoist insurgency.

Maoist rebels in Jharkhand's neighbouring state of Orissa recently abducted two Italians and a lawmaker. They later released one Italian and are in talks with local authorities over freeing the other hostages.

The rebels said they are fighting for the rights of tribal, landless and poor people in some of the country's poorest regions.