'Five Maoist rebels' shot dead in eastern India

Image caption, The Maoist rebels are active in a large swathe of India

Police in India say at least five Maoist militants were shot dead by security forces early on Sunday in the eastern state of Orissa.

Police and paramilitaries carried out a raid on the rebels' forest camps overnight, during which there was a lengthy exchange of fire.

Several of the dead are women.

India's Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh, has described the Maoist insurgency as the country's biggest internal security challenge.

A major government offensive was launched against them last year in five states, including Orissa.

Last month, Maoist rebels killed seven villagers in India's West Bengal state.

The rebels are believed to be active in more than two-thirds of the country.

They say they are fighting for the rights of the rural poor.

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