Police kill 4 top communist rebels in southern India

Police shot four suspected communist rebels dead in two separate clashes ahead of local government elections in southern India.

Those killed were key members of the Communist Party of India Maoist, which had asked people to boycott Saturday's elections in Andhra Pradesh state, where three of the rebels were killed.

"This is a major setback to the CPI Maoist because all of them were top cadres," Jain told.

A fourth rebel was killed by a police patrol in the forest area of Guntur district, 220 miles east of the state capital Hyderabad. During the shootouts in both areas, another 10 rebels escaped.

Maoist rebels, who claim to be inspired by Chinese revolutionary Mao Zedong, have been fighting for more than three decades in several Indian states, demanding land and jobs for agricultural laborers and the poor.

The rebellion has claimed more than 7,000 lives since it began in 1981. The rebels often target police and government officials, whom they accuse of colluding with landlords and rich farmers to exploit the poor, the AP reports.

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