India police 'kill nine Maoists' in Chhattisgarh

Maoist rebels train with guns in Chhattisgarh
Image caption India's PM has described the Maoists as the biggest internal security threat

Police in India say they have killed at least nine Maoist rebels in a clash in the central state of Chhattisgarh.

The clash happened when a police patrol came under rebel fire in Sukma district early on Tuesday, police said.

The Maoists are active in more than a third of India's 600 districts. They say they are fighting for the rights of the poor.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has described them as the biggest internal security challenge facing India.

Sukma police official Abishek Shandilya told the Press Trust of India news agency that security forces were searching for rebels in the forested area of Puarti village.

"On spotting the security forces, the rebels opened fire and in the retaliatory action, nine rebels were killed and several others were injured," Mr Shandilya said.

Some arms were also recovered from the site of the clash, he said.

In June last year, police claimed to have killed 17 rebels in a gunfight in the rebel-dominated Bijapur area of the state.

But rights activists and local villagers said those killed were local tribespeople and not Maoist rebels.

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