Seven Maoists were killed in a gunfight with security forces in Rajnandgaon district of Chhattisgarh on Saturday, police said.

The exchange of fire happened at around 6 am in the forest near Sitagota village under Baghnadi police station area, when a team of District Reserve Guard or DRG were out on an anti-Maoist operation, Deputy Inspector General (anti-Maoist operations) Sundarraj P told news agency PTI.

“So far, bodies of seven Maoists along with a huge cache of weapons, including one AK-47, have been found from the spot,” he said.

Further details are awaited as search operations are still on, he added.

Last month, the Home Ministry had directed security establishments in states and the Central armed forces to continue their operations in Maoist-affected areas and stressed filling up the security vacuum.

In June, Home Minister Amit Shah held a high-level meeting to discuss internal security and Maoist issues. It was attended by National Security Advisor (NSA) Ajit Doval, Intelligence Bureau chief Rajiv Jain, Union Home Secretary Rajiv Gauba, Joint Secretary (Naxals) and other senior Home Ministry officials.

At the meeting, Shah was apprised of the country’s internal security situation, specifically in Maoist-affected states where periodical attacks have claimed lives of dozens of paramilitary personnel and civilians.

Maoists remain a major challenge for the Home Ministry, despite former Home Minister Rajnath Singh’s claim that they have been pushed back with newly-built infrastructure and violence in Maoist-infested areas has declined by over 60 per cent.

According to Intelligence agencies, the government has removed 44 districts from its list of areas affected by Maoists, but there is now a resurgent threat from the regrouping of Maoists in four states — Chhattisgarh, Bihar, Jharkhand and Maharashtra.

Earlier in April, BJP’s lone legislator from Chhattisgarh’s Maoist-affected Bastar region, Bhima Mandavi, was killed along with four policemen as Maoists carried out a deadly attack on his convoy in a forested patch in Dantewada district.

Since assuming charge as Home Minister on June 1, Shah has had several meetings on internal security, related to the terrorism problem in Jammu and Kashmir, Maoism as well as the problems in the Northeast.

(With agency inputs)