Indian police say they killed 12 Maoist rebels in a clash in their eastern stronghold

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At least 12 Maoist rebels were killed Tuesday in a clash with police in eastern India.

Police Inspector-General S.M. Pradhan said the police attacked the rebels as they were on their way to extort money from some mining contractors in Palamau district in Jharkhand state.

He said police recovered 12 bodies and eight automatic guns in one of the rebels' strongholds in a forested area nearly 300 kilometers (200 miles) south of Patna, the capital of neighboring Bihar state. There were no police casualties.

The rebels, who have been fighting for more than three decades, say they are inspired by Chinese revolutionary leader Mao Zedong.

They are considered India's biggest internal security threat, operate in 20 of India's 28 states and have thousands of fighters.