HYDERABAD, India – Police raided a forest hideout for communist rebels in the southern Indian state of Andhra Pradesh state Sunday, killing a guerrilla chief and at least seven other people, the state's police chief said.
The rebels, who claim to be inspired by Chinese revolutionary Mao Zedong, have been fighting for more than two decades in several Indian states, demanding land and jobs for agricultural laborers and the poor. More than 6,500 people have been killed.
Top rebel leader Burra Chinnaiah, the state chief of the outlawed Communist Party of India-Maoist group, was among those killed Sunday, said Director-General of Police Swaranjit Sen, who described the operation as a major blow to the rebels.
Sen said police recovered seven guns, including an AK-47 rifle in the clashes in Daraboilupenta forest, about 220 miles south of Hyderabad, the capital of Andhra Pradesh.
"The only way out for the Maoists is to surrender their weapons. They will be well off joining the political mainstream," Sen said.
State Home Minister K. Jana Reddy applauded the police raids and said there was no unnecessary carnage. Five women were among the dead.
"The government is fulfilling its responsibility of maintaining law and order. The police kills the extremists only in self defense and not deliberately," Reddy said.
Eighty suspected rebels have been killed so far this year in Andhra Pradesh, police say. Twenty civilians and policemen have been killed by the militants.