India police kill '17 Maoists' in Chhattisgarh

Maoists on the move
Image caption The Maoists are active in more than a third of India's 600-odd districts

Police in India say they have killed 17 Maoist rebels in an overnight clash in the central state of Chhattisgarh.

Six personnel of the paramilitary Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) were wounded in the clash in the rebel-dominated Bijapur district, they said.

The BBC's Salman Ravi in the state capital, Raipur, says local villagers, mostly tribals, have held a protest, contesting the police claim.

They have alleged that most of those killed were villagers, not insurgents.

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

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

Fighting started late Thursday night when the policemen were carrying out an operation in the dense forests of Basaguda.

A senior police officer in Bijapur, Prashant Agarwal, told the BBC that they had recovered a large number of arms and ammunition from the area.

Mr Agarwal said only five of the bodies had been identified so far and that they were trying to identity the others.

More on this story