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24 cops killed in Maoist fighting in Chhattisgarh

RAIPUR, India (Reuters) - Twenty-four policemen who had gone missing after a fierce gunbattle with Maoist insurgents in the jungles of Chhattisgarh were found dead on Tuesday, a top officer said.

The missing men were part of a group of 90 troopers who engaged the rebels for two hours in a hilly forest on Monday in Dantewada district in Chhattisgarh, close to the epicentre of the insurgency.

"Search parties have recovered all the 24 bodies from very close to the encounter site," state Inspector-General of Police Girdhari Nayak told Reuters.

Earlier, authorities in the poor and underdeveloped state had said they had lost contact with the policemen for almost 24 hours and had sent reinforcements to look for them.

Maoist rebels operate in a large swathe of India stretching from the east to some southern states, mostly in the countryside, and attack government officials and property.

They say they are fighting for the rights of millions of poor peasants and landless labourers. Thousands of people have been killed in the insurgency which began in the late 1960s.

Elsewhere, in Karnataka, police said they had killed five Maoist rebels in a gun battle in the hilly district of Chikmagalur, about 250 km west of Bangalore.

"A massive combing operation is on to hunt for accomplices," said state police chief K.R. Sreenivasan.

Karnataka is among the most recent of states to be hit by the Maoist insurgency. The police action came a week after a group of suspected Maoists set a government bus alight in the region.

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posted by Resistance 7/10/2007 07:25:00 PM,

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