NEW DELHI, March 11 (Xinhua) -- At least 20 Indian security forces personnel were killed and several other injured in a major left-wing rebel Naxalite attack in the central state of Chhattisgarh Tuesday, a top police official said.
The ambush took place near Tongpal in the state's Naxalite- infested Sukma district when more than 300 rebels detonated a powerful improvised explosive device and subsequently opened indiscriminate fire at the security forces personnel who were patrolling the area on foot.
"Some 15 paramilitary troopers and five local police personnel were killed in the attack while 44 others managed to escape unhurt, " state police intelligence chief Mukesh Gupta told the media in the state capital Raipur.
Local TV channels reported that a security forces helicopter has been pressed into service to ferry the injured from the spot, and it is not clear whether the rebels suffered any casualties in the three-hour long encounter between the Naxalites and the security forces.
The number of dead may go up as some policemen and security men were seriously injured or missing, said Indo-Asian News Service.
The incident took place at an area in the vicinity of another ambush spot where the rebels killed 27 people, including India's ruling Congress party leaders, in May last year while they were on a campaign trail.
Naxalites, who claim to be fighting for the rights of the poor, are active in poor rural areas of at least 10 Indian states.
Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has described Naxalite insurgency as the country's biggest internal security threat.