NEW DELHI (AP) — Security forces were hunting through forests in southeast India on Monday for Maoist rebels after a fierce gunfight left 21 rebels and a police commando dead and another policeman wounded.
The gunfight broke out late Sunday after police received a tip that 60 Maoist rebels were gathered in forests on the border of Odisha and Andhra Pradesh states, said a police officer speaking on customary condition of anonymity.
The gunfight lasted an hour before the rebels scattered into the dense forests. At daybreak Monday, police and paramilitary soldiers launched a search for them, he said.
Police have recovered some arms and ammunition from the area.
Police superintendent Rahul Dev Sharma said a policeman who was injured in the gunfight succumbed to his injuries Monday afternoon.
Andhra Pradesh's top police officer, Nanduri Sambasiva Rao, said search operations were going on, with reports that some rebels were still in the area.
The rebels, who have been fighting for more than three decades demanding land and jobs for tenant farmers and the poor, say they are inspired by Chinese revolutionary leader Mao Zedong.
Considered India's biggest internal security threat, they operate in 20 of India's 28 states and have thousands of fighters.