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(Update 3 weeks ago)

(Reuters) -At least 22 members of Indian security forces were killed in a central Indian state by Maoist fighters, in one of the bloodiest attacks by the extreme left-wing insurgent group this year, officials said on Sunday.Security personnel belonging to the Central Reserve Police Force’s elite CoBRA unit, the District Reserve Guard, and the Special Task Force were attacked on Saturday in the tribal-dominated Chhattisgarh state during an anti-insurgency operation.

“We can confirm that 22 of Indian force members have been killed by Maoist fighters,” said a senior government official in Raipur, the capital of mineral-rich Chhattisgarh.

They were killed in firing that lasted for four hours in the border district of Sukma, 540 kms (340 miles) south of Raipur.

Om Prakash Pal, a senior police official in Raipur, said combing operations to trace one missing security force member were being conducted.

The death toll was the heaviest for Indian security forces battling the far-left guerrillas since 2017.

Home Minister Amit Shah said the government will not tolerate such bloodshed and “a befitting response will be given to prevent such attacks.”

The Maoists, also known as Naxals, have waged an armed insurgency against the government for decades. Leaders of the hardline leftist militant group say they are fighting on behalf of the poorest, who have not benefited from a long economic boom in Asia’s third-largest economy.

Since 1967 the group seen as the greatest threat to the country’s internal security have asserted control over vast swathes of land in central and eastern India, establishing a so-called “red corridor”.

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