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Suspected Indian Communist Rebels Kill 16 Police Officers

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MUMBAI, India — Suspected communist rebels ambushed a police patrol in western India on Thursday, killing 16 officers, police said.

The squad was making its rounds in an area known to be a rebel stronghold near the city of Nagpur, when they apparently ran into a large group of gunmen, said local police chief Rajesh Pradhan.

None of the officers survived the battle, and there was no immediate word on rebel casualties, he said.

The clash took place some 500 miles (800 kilometers) east of Mumbai, India's financial capital. In February, 15 officers were killed in the a similar incident in the same region.

The rebels, who say they are inspired by Chinese revolutionary leader Mao Zedong, have been fighting for more than three decades in several Indian states, demanding land and jobs for agricultural laborers and the poor.

They are called Naxalites after Naxalbari, a village in West Bengal state where the movement was born in 1967.

Over the past few years, about 2,000 people _ including police, militants and civilians _ have been killed in the violence.