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KATMANDU, Nepal (AP) _ At least 51 Maoist rebels were killed in an attack on an army camp in western Nepal, defense officials said Friday.

About 700 rebels attacked the camp in Salyan district, about 250 miles west of Nepal's capital, Katmandu, on Wednesday night, and fighting continued through Thursday.

Four soldiers were killed and 26 were injured in fighting, Defense Ministry spokesman Bhupendra Poudel said Friday.

Reinforcement troops were deployed to the area and army helicopters were used to repel the attackers. Poudel said the fighting had stopped.

Fighting between the government and Maoist rebels has intensified in recent months, with the army joining police in a campaign to root out rebel fighters from strongholds in remote mountainous areas.

Hundreds of people have been killed in battles since November, bringing to more than 4,000 the number of lives claimed since the rebels began fighting in 1996 to abolish Nepal's constitutional monarchy. The rebels draw their inspiration from Chinese revolutionary leader Mao Zedong.

As the violence escalated, the government instituted emergency rule last fall, saying authorities needed it to effectively fight the rebels.

The government routinely reports high rebel casualty figures from battles and low army death tolls. Casualty reports cannot be independently verified, as gunbattles often occur in remote mountain areas. Neither human rights organizations nor journalists can go to the regions of fighting without military permission.