NEW DELHI－At least 22 members of India's security forces are known to have died in weekend clashes following an attack by rebels in the central state of Chhattisgarh.
The fighting with Naxal rebels, which began on Saturday, broke out after one of the bloodiest attacks by the insurgent group, officials said on Sunday.
The bodies of as many as 20 security personnel were recovered on Sunday; two bodies had been recovered on Saturday.
Security personnel from 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.
According to sources, more than 200 Naxal rebels ambushed them on Saturday afternoon.
Around 15 Naxal fighters, including a number of female rebels, were gunned down and more than 20 injured in the encounter that took place in a forest area near the Sukma and Bijapur districts of the state, local media reported.
In addition to the deaths among the security forces, 31 of them were injured, including two senior officers, in the clashes. Some of the seriously injured were sent to a hospital in the state capital Raipur.
Hindi news TV channel Aajtak quoted Chhattisgarh Director General of Police D.M. Awasthi as saying: "Two dead bodies were recovered yesterday, and 20 have been recovered today. One security person is still missing."
Gunbattles with the Naxals on Saturday continued for three to four hours till nightfall, he said.
The Naxals have not claimed responsibility for the latest attack.
They have waged an armed insurgency against the government for decades. Since 1967, the group has asserted control over vast swathes of land in central and eastern India and has been seen as one of the greatest threats to India's internal security.
Paying homage to those killed in the encounter, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in a tweet, said his thoughts were with the families of those martyred in the fighting. "The sacrifices of the brave martyrs will never be forgotten. May the injured recover at the earliest," he added.
Indian Home Minister Amit Shah, who is in charge of internal security, said the government will not tolerate such bloodshed and "a befitting response will be given to prevent such attacks".
Last month, five police officers were killed and several others injured in a blast in what police said was a Naxal strike targeting a bus carrying more than 20 security personnel.
Xinhua - Agencies