Eight Maoist guerrillas, including three women, were killed in an overnight gun battle with combined security forces in the Maoist stronghold of Salboni in West Midnapore district on Wednesday.
All eight bodies have been recovered and a Maoist, who was injured in the fierce gunfight, has been arrested, the police said.
This is the first time that bodies of Maoists killed in an encounter have been recovered in West Bengal since the combined forces were pressed into service in the state in June last year.
"Security forces might have actually killed 12 rebels. It is possible that the Maoists decamped with the remaining bodies so that police would not get hold of them. They might have carried away some of their injured mates," said Manoj Verma, superintendent of police, West Midnapore.
A tip-off that armed rebels had set up base in the forest near Salboni triggered the offensive.
"On receiving information that around 45 Maoists were camping in the forest, the forces moved in on Tuesday night itself and surrounded the entire area," Verma said.
"The operation started around 4.30 a.m. on Wednesday morning and continued till 10 a.m."
Security forces also recovered an AK-47 assault rifle, guns, ammunition for self-loading rifles, wires, radio sets, rifles, 9 mm pistols, landmines, explosives and batteries from the spot.
Some of the arms recovered were probably looted by the rebels during their attack on the Eastern Frontier Rifles (EFR) camp in Silda in February that left 24 EFR personnel dead, the police said.
The state government had claimed that many rebels were killed in gun battle but no bodies had been recovered.