Rebels Kill 7 in India

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Dozens of communist rebels attacked a village police station and officers' homes with gunfire and bombs in southern India, killing five police and two civilians, an official said Saturday.

Approximately 40 militants stormed the Chilkaluripeta (search) police station in the southern Andhra Pradesh (search) state around midnight Friday, lobbing crude bombs and firing at the officers, said Jitendra Goyal, the district police chief.

The senior officer at the station was fired at and then killed with a sharp-edged weapon as he tried to climb over a wall and flee, Goyal said.

The raid was a revenge attack for the killing of 10 rebels, including a top insurgent leader, in a police ambush Monday, he said.

The dead civilians included the mother of a police officer who was killed when a bomb smashed through her home, and a local college clerk who was at the police station on official work, Goyal said.

The village is about 220 miles southeast of Hyderabad (search), the state capital.

The attackers came in two vehicles and carried out the killings in some 15 minutes, Goyal said. As they fled, they shouted slogans against the police for killing their comrades.

The encounters were the most serious violence between police and rebels since the breakdown of peace talks in January. Since then, more than 85 people have died in clashes.

The rebels' area platoon commander, who identified himself as Suresh, claimed responsibility for the attack in calls to local journalists on a mobile phone snatched from a police officer.

"We have carried out the attack as, on the one hand the government was talking of negotiations, and on the other killing our people through armed actions and by sending secret agents," he said. He threatened more attacks.

The communist insurgents have been fighting for more than three decades, demanding land and jobs for agricultural laborers and the poor. They often target police and government officials, whom they accuse of colluding with landlords and rich farmers to exploit the poor.

Communist rebels are active in several Indian states, including their stronghold of Andhra Pradesh.