At least seven police officers have been killed in a powerful landmine blast triggered by suspected Maoist rebels in central India, officials have said.

"Seven of our men have lost their lives and two others, who are seriously injured, have been airlifted to Nagpur (city) for treatment," said Dharmendra Joshi, a police spokesperson for central Gadchiroli district where the attack took place on Sunday.

The killed belonged to the special anti-Naxal operations force of western Maharashtra state.

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Police said the blast took place when their vehicle was moving along the Murmuri-Chamuri area of the district - a stronghold of Maoist rebels.

The attack comes two days after the police arrested a university professor GN Saibaba from the country's capital, New Delhi, on charges of links with Maoist rebels.

Rebels, who claim to be fighting for India's poor and tribals, control large areas of what officials call "red corridor" stretching from northeast to central India.

They have been fighting for more than 40 years claiming they have been inspired by the Chinese revolutionary leader Mao Zedong.

India's Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has called Maoists the country's greatest internal security threat.

Source: Agencies