RANCHI, India (AP) — Police say a land mine blast has killed at least 12 police officers in an eastern Indian Maoist rebel stronghold.

Navin Kumar Singh, the superintendent of police, says the officers were clearing mines on Saturday in Burudih area, nearly 100 miles south of Ranchi, the capital of Jharkhand state.

Singh says the rebels planted land mines in the region to avoid being targeted by security forces.

The rebels, who say they are inspired by Chinese revolutionary leader Mao Zedong, have been fighting for more than three decades in several Indian states. They demand land and jobs for agricultural laborers and the poor.