Maoists killed in clash with police

June 29, 2012 at 9:11 AM

RAIPUR, India, June 29 (UPI) -- At least 17 Maoist rebels were killed in a clash with police in the Bijapur district of India's Chhattisgarh state, police said Friday.

Six members of the Central Reserve Police Force were wounded in the overnight clash, the BBC reported.

The British broadcaster said local villagers claim the men were civilians, not insurgents.

Fighting began late Thursday night in the forests of Silger, an uncharted Maoist zone near Basaguda, the Press Trust of India said. More than 300 police were involved.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has described the rebels as the biggest internal security challenge facing India, the BBC said. The Maoists say they're fighting for the rights of peasants and laborers.

A senior officer said a large number of arms have been recovered in the area, the BBC reported.

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