11 security men killed in Maoist attack in India

New Delhi - At least 11 security personnel were killed when Maoist rebels blew up a bus carrying them in India's eastern state of Orissa on Sunday, a news report said.

Ten personnel belonging to the state's anti-Maoist force, the Special Operation Group (SOG), were injured when the rebels detonated a landmine under the vehicle in the Koraput district, the NDTV network reported.

A brief exchange of fire took place between the security personnel and the rebels near a village in Koraput, about 500 kilometres south- west of state capital Bhubaneswar, according to the report quoting police sources.

The wounded were rushed to nearby hospitals while additional police and medical teams were dispatched to the scene.

The attack occurred a couple of hours after India's federal Home Minister Palaniappan Chidambaram concluded a tour of the Maoist-dominated areas in neighbouring West Bengal state.

Chidabambaram who reviewed anti-Maoist operations in the region had expressed concern over the security situation in Orissa and Jharkhand states where Maoists still hold sway.

He called the Maoist militants 'cowards' saying they hid in forests and added that the campaign against them will be long-drawn struggle.

The minister also urged the locals and tribals not to support the Maoist rebels.

'They (Maoists) are cowards,' Chidamabaram told reporters in West Bengal.

'Why are they hiding in forests? If they really want development and discuss problems of the people, they can just come forward for talks ... but (they should) just give up violence,' he said.

According to the Home Ministry, the rebels are active in 200 of India's 626 districts, and were virtually in control of 34.

The rebels claim they are fighting for the rights of the tribal people, the poor and the landless. They attack police and security officials and establishments at regular intervals.

More than 1,100 people were killed in 2009 in violence linked to the Maoist insurgency, which Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has described as the gravest internal security threat facing India.