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Last Updated: Saturday, 17 June 2006, 07:38 GMT 08:38 UK
Top Indian Maoist rebel 'killed'
A top leader of India's main Maoist group has been killed in the southern state of Andhra Pradesh, police say.

Police say the Maoist leader, Ravi Kumar, was shot dead in an exchange on Friday night.

In a separate incident, three other Maoist rebels are said to have killed on Saturday.

Maoist rebels are active in about a third of India's states. In some parts of the country, they run a virtual parallel administration.

A senior police official, N Balasubramaniam, said the exchange took place in a forest in the state's Prakasham district.

He said police came upon Maoist rebels during a search operation.

In the gun battle that followed, Ravi Kumar is said to have died. Two Maoists were injured but managed to escape.

The police recovered arms and literature from the scene.

Set back

The BBC's Omer Farooq in Andhra Pradesh says this is a big set back for the Maoists as Ravi Kumar was a strategist for the group and is the senior most leader to have been killed by the police.

Police had announced a reward of 1.5 million rupees ($32,700) for his capture.

His killing has evoked an instant reaction from the underground organisation. The Maoists have issued a statement condemning the killing.

Separately, on Saturday, the police said they had killed three Maoists in an exchange in the same district.

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