About 150 foreign gunmen trying to overthrow the Maldives government Thursday battled loyalist troops, and at least 12 people were reported killed. India rushed in soldiers to help the government, sources said.

Indian defense and home ministry sources said the paratroopers took off from south India after nightfall. The sources spoke on condition of anonymity.The Press Trust of India news agency said earlier that India had three warships "ready to sail" to the neighboring Maldives, where President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom appealed to India and the United States for help.

In Washington, White House spokesman Marlin Fitzwater said officials were reviewing the request. "The Maldives are friendly to the United States and we generally support them, but in terms of this existing situation, it appears to be resolving itself," he said.

The attackers arrived in the capital, Male, by boat before dawn and attacked the presidential palace.

Ahmed Abdullah Aziz, the Maldivian high commissioner in Sri Lanka, said the Maldivian government had beaten back the attackers. "The government is in full control of the situation," he said.

However, residents of Male, a city of 55,000, said sporadic gunfire continued through the day. By nightfall, foreign gunmen were in control of part of Male, according to Western diplomats in Colombo who spoke on condition of anonymnity.

A Sri Lankan government official in Colombo said at least 12 people were killed and 22 injured in clashes after the attack. The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said he received the information from the Sri Lankan High Commission in Male.

Western diplomats in Colombo, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said loyalist troops were in control of the capital, but they said attackers held the radio and television station.

An Indian Foreign Ministry spokesman in New Delhi said reports from the Indian High Commission in Male indicated the attackers were Sri Lankan.

The official said the attackers captured several senior Maldivian officials.