Police say Maoist rebels have ambushed a government patrol in a mountainous area of eastern India, killing at least seven soldiers and wounding seven others.

Top state police officer G.S. Rath says about 50 government forces were attacked Monday in a Maoist stronghold in Jharkhand state's Latehar district.

Rath says paramilitary soldiers returned fire and the clash continued for several hours. The bodies of seven government forces were recovered.

Thousands of people have been killed in the last decade in the rebels' fight for land and jobs for agricultural laborers and the poor. The rebels, Inspired by Chinese revolutionary leader Mao Zedong, began their movement in 1967 and today are spread across 20 of India's 28 states.