RAIPUR : Maoist rebels on Saturday killed seven policemen and wounded at least 10 others in an ambush in a remote part of central India, security officials said.

The troops were carrying out an operation deep in a forest when the gunmen attacked, the head of Chhattisgarh state’s anti-Maoist operations told AFP.

“Seven security forces have been killed and 10 others have been injured in the encounter that took place in Sukma region,” said Rajinder Kumar Vij. Additional security reinforcements were being rushed to the area but rescue efforts were being hampered by bad weather, police deputy inspector general A. N. Upadhyaya said. “We are trying to airlift those who are injured to our base in Jagdalpur,” Upadhyaya told AFP.

The attack is the latest in a simmering conflict that pits the insurgents against security forces in the remote areas of mainly central and eastern India.

The guerrillas, who say they are fighting for the rights of tribal people and landless farmers, often collect funds through extortion and protection rackets.

The Maoists are believed to be present in at least 20 states, but are most active in Chhattisgarh, Orissa, Bihar, Jharkhand and Maharashtra, occupying thousands of square kilometres (miles) of land.

The insurgency is believed to have cost tens of thousands of lives, with much action focused around the insurgent-dominated, so-called “Red Corridor” stretching through central and eastern India.

Critics believe attempts to end the revolt through tough security offensives are doomed to fail, saying the real solution is better governance and development of the region.