NEW DELHI, Sept. 28 (UPI) -- Indian police said a dozen Maoists were killed in a joint operation launched by the security forces of Jharkhand and Orissa states last weekend.
Jharkhand Director General of Police Neyaz Ahmad said the fighting took place in Saranda forest and that some of the bodies of the Maoists have been found.
It isn't uncommon for the Maoist insurgents to take the bodies of their dead with them as they flee ahead of a security forces sweep through the countryside and small villages.
The thick forest of Saranda, with its dense canopies of trees as well as tigers and leopards, has been controlled by the Maoists for nearly a decade and been an unsafe place for police as well as tourists.
The security offensive in the 320 square miles of forest is part of the continuing two-year Operation Green Hunt begun by the federal government to regain the mostly rural territory lost to the insurgents.
Around 50,000 federal paramilitary troops and tens of thousands of civilians have been drafted in for the operation.
The communist-led rebels originated in the village of Naxalbari in West Bengal in India's remote forested and mineral-rich far eastern reaches in the 1960s.
They demand more of the wealth from the region's natural resources, especially from new mining projects, be spread among the mainly rural poor.
A surge in deaths last year to 1,134 prompted the government to launch Operation Green Hunt. Orrisa and Jharkhand states are in what is known as the "red corridor" that takes in several rural states in eastern and central India.
Green Hunt relies on security forces being stationed in so-called Naxal-infested areas where they can attempt to win the hearts and minds of the poor, who are often attracted to Naxalite promises of a better life.
More than 200 security forces personnel have been killed this year. But police often are targets for hostage taking.
Maoists threatened to kill four policemen they took hostage last week unless Naxalite prisoners are freed, officials said. They were taken hostage during a gunfight with security forces in which seven other officers were killed.
The insurgents abducted seven policemen in Bijapur, Chhattisgarh state, on Sept. 19 and three of them were later found dead in the forest.
Police said that they recovered the body of sub-inspector Lucas Tete but the fate of the other officers wasn't known.
"I presume that the remaining three policemen are safe and sound. We cannot jump to conclusions," senior police official P.K. Thakur said.
In the past several days, Maoists also blew up a hostel and triggered three land mine blasts. A helicopter was dispatched to the area and security authorities said they destroyed a small Maoist training camp.