NEW DELHI (AP) — Maoist rebels ambushed a paramilitary patrol in eastern India on Tuesday, killing at least five people and wounding two others, the home minister said.

The soldiers were traveling through Koraput district in Odisha state when the rebels set off a bomb, blowing up their vehicle, Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde said. He said reinforcements were sent to the remote area and were searching for the rebels.

The two wounded soldiers were being treated at a nearby hospital.

The rebels have been fighting in many Indian states for more than 40 years. They claim inspiration from Chinese revolutionary leader Mao Zedong.

They demand land and jobs for poor tribal communities that they say are ignored by the government.

The rebels, also known as Naxalites, have ambushed police, destroyed government offices and abducted government officials. They have blown up train tracks, attacked prisons to free their comrades and stolen weapons from police and paramilitary warehouses.

The insurgency began in 1967 as a network of leftwing ideologues and young recruits in the village of Naxalbari outside Kolkata, the capital of West Bengal state. The Naxalites are now estimated to have 30,000 fighters and have pledged to violently overthrow the Indian government.

They control vast swaths of the so-called Red Belt in central and eastern India, where troops and officials rarely venture. The rebels are thought to operate in 20 of India's 28 states.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh says the rebels are India's biggest internal threat.