India Maoist rebels ‘killed in gunbattle’

Police in the Indian state of Jharkhand say they have killed nine Maoist rebels in a gunbattle.

Police officers and rebels exchanged fire for five hours overnight at the Betla national park in Latehar district, police said.

No police were injured in the firefight. A large amount of arms and ammunition has been recovered.

Indian forces are battling Maoists in several states. The rebels say they are fighting for the rights of the poor.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has described the Maoist insurgency as India’s biggest internal security challenge.

A government offensive against the rebels – widely referred to as Operation Green Hunt – began last October.

It involves 50,000 troops and is taking place across five states – West Bengal, Jharkhand, Bihar, Orissa and Chhattisgarh. – Bbcnews