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Police kill 24 Maoists in Chhattisgarh gun battle

RAIPUR (Reuters) - Police and Maoist rebels battled in a remote jungle in Chhattisgarh, leaving at least 24 Maoist rebels and one senior police officer dead in one of the deadliest gunfights this year, police said.

Hundreds of police and special forces encircled more than 100 heavily armed Maoists around a rebel stronghold in the central state of Chhattisgarh, Girdhari Nayak, additional director general of police, said.

“The casualty figure is not less than two dozen. We have so far recovered 10 bodies,” Nayak told Reuters.

Police said a heavy exchange of gunfire was still under way in a forest, 450 km (280 miles) from the state capital, Raipur.

Thousands have been killed in the Maoist insurgency which began in the late 1960s and which Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has described as one of the gravest home-grown threats to India’s internal security.

This week, Singh told the state police chiefs that a campaign against the rebels had failed to produce results and that rebel violence was on the rise in many states.

The rebels, who say they are fighting for the rights of poor farmers and landless labourers, are expanding their influence in the rural areas of east, central and southern India.

They have increased attacks on railways, power and telecommunication networks to halt economic development, officials say.

Reporting by Sujeet Kumar; Editing by Alistair Scrutton