updated 7/10/2007 11:02:51 PM ET 2007-07-11T03:02:51

Maoist rebels using mortars and machine guns battled police in eastern India in an hours-long fight that left 24 policemen and 25 rebels dead, a police official said Wednesday.

The rebel assault was the latest in a series in a region where widespread poverty has fueled a lengthy insurgency. The fighting took place in Elampatti-Regadgatta jungle of Dantewada district, nearly 350 miles south of Raipur, the capital of Chattisgarh state, the Press Trust of India news agency said.

The rebels ambushed more than 100 policemen and the gunbattle lasted more than five hours Monday night, said Rajendra Kumar Vij, inspector general of state police. He said at least 25 communist rebels were also killed, but their bodies had not yet been recovered.

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