At least eight suspected rebels including five women have been killed in a gun battle with police in central India, local officers said.

Police said the encounter between suspected Maoists and security forces took place in a forest near the Telangana-Chhattisgarh border on Tuesday morning. The gun battle lasted six hours. 

"Forces today killed at least eight Maoists in Sakler forest," Santosh Singh, a senior police officer, said in Sukma district, some 390km from the Chhattisgarh state capital, Raipur.

"Among those killed were five female and three male Maoists," Singh told the AFP news agency, adding that six assault rifles were found with the rebels.

READ MORE: Indian villagers 'crushed' between militia and Maoists

Sukma police chief D Sravan Kumar said elite anti-Maoist police squads conducted a raid in a joint state operation after receiving a tip-off about rebel movements in the forest.

The rebels, described by former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh as India's most serious internal security threat, say they are fighting authorities for land, jobs and other rights for poor tribal groups.

The rebels operate in at least 20 Indian states but are most active in the forested and resource-rich areas of Chhattisgarh, Orissa, Bihar, Jharkhand and Maharashtra.

Government critics say attempts to end the revolt through tough security offensives are doomed to fail, and the real solution is better governance and development of the region.

India's silent war

Source: AFP