Gadchiroli: Seven Maoists, including five women, were gunned down in an encounter with police in Maharashtra's Gadchiroli district this morning, an official said.

The skirmish took place at around 5.30 am in a forest in Kalled village, about 15 kms north of Zinganoor outpost in Sironcha tehsil of Gadchiroli, when a squad of Maharashtra police's special anti-Maoist unit was out on an anti-Naxal operation, the senior police official told PTI.

On specific information, the police launched the operation against the Maoists around midnight and the team of C-60 commandos was sent in Kalled village, following which the encounter took place, Special Inspector General of Police (Anti-Naxal Operations) Sharad Shelar said.

The patrolling team was cordoning off the forest patch near Kalled, which borders neighbouring Chhattisgarh, when the exchange of fire took place between the two sides, he said.

"Seven Maoists, including five women, were killed in the encounter while some weapons were also recovered from the spot," the official said. At least two Naxals were also injured, he said, adding that the rebels fled after the encounter.

The weapons seized by the police included two SLR rifles, two 303 rifles, two 12 bore guns and one country-made pistol, he said. A chopper was sent to bring the police team back from the forest along with the bodies of the rebels, Shelar said. The bodies will be sent for postmortem, he said, adding that the deceased were yet to be identified.

Another police official said that security personnel were on alert and camping in the area since the last few days in view of the People's Liberation Guerrilla Army (PLGA- military wing of the Maoists) week being observed by the ultras between December 2 and 8, during which the rebels step up their activities.

A search operation was underway in the area, the police added. Meanwhile, Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh called up state Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis and lauded the state for its anti-naxal operation.

"Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh called the CM to appreciate this anti-naxal and intelligence-based operation," a statement issued by the Chief Minister's Office (CMO) said. The chief minister congratulated the C-60 commandos of Maharashtra police for the "strong action" against naxalites in Gadchiroli, the statement added. (PTI)