Nepal's Defense Ministry says at least 29 people - including Maoist rebels, soldiers and police - have been killed in a fierce gunfight in the western part of the country.

An army statement says the clash occurred late Tuesday in the Palpa area, some 250 kilometers west of the capital, Kathmandu. It says 18 rebels, 10 soldiers and a policeman were killed in the fighting.

No other details were immediately available.

Rebel attacks have increased since the Maoists ended a unilateral cease-fire in early January. They have been fighting since 1996 to overthrow Nepal's constitutional monarchy and replace it with a communist state. About 13,000 people have been killed in the war that shattered Nepal's economy.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.