At least 29 Maoist insurgents were killed in a shootout with security forces on Tuesday, police told AFP, one of the deadliest days in the long-running conflict.

The guerrillas were killed in a remote part of the central state of Chhattisgarh, which has seen a number of deadly assaults on Maoist forces this year.

The insurgents, who are known as Naxalites and say they are fighting for the rural poor, have carried out guerilla attacks since 1967.

Security has been stepped up in Chhattisgarh ahead of a marathon six-week general election beginning on Friday.

All 29 died in Kanker district, south of the state capital Raipur.

District police chief IK Elesela confirmed Tuesday’s toll to AFP, saying the rebels had been pursued in a joint operation between police and the paramilitary Border Security Force (BSF).

“One BSF soldier and a Kanker police officer have sustained bullet injuries,” he said.

A large quantity of weapons, including four automatic firearms, had been recovered from the dead, he said.

Elesela earlier told local media that Shankar Rao, a top rebel commander who was the subject of a $300,000 reward for information leading to his capture, was among those killed.

A BSF statement said the operation had been running since Monday evening to intercept the Maoists after learning of their movements near the village of Binagunda.

Bastar district police inspector-general Sundarraj Pattilingam told AFP that three members of the government security forces had been wounded in the skirmish.

“But they are walking,” he said.

‘Red Corridor’

Tuesday’s clash was the second of its kind this month, after the killing of 13 Maoist rebels during a shootout in Chhattisgarh on April 2.

Around 80 Maoists have been killed in India this year, according to police figures, the vast majority in that state.

India has deployed tens of thousands of security personnel to battle Maoist rebels across the insurgent-dominated “Red Corridor”, which stretches across central, southern and eastern states but has shrunk in size.

The conflict has seen a number of deadly attacks on government forces over the years.

India has pumped millions of dollars into infrastructure development in remote areas and claims to have confined the insurgency to 45 districts in 2023, down from 96 in 2010.

Twenty-two police and paramilitaries were killed in a gun battle with the far-left guerrillas in 2021.

In March 2020, 17 police from a commando patrol were killed in an attack by more than 300 armed rebels in Chhattisgarh.

Sixteen commandos were also killed in the western state of Maharashtra in a bomb attack that was blamed on the Maoists in the lead-up to India’s election in 2019.

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