Maoist protest
Supporters of India's ruling Congress party protest against a rest attack by Maoist rebels in the east of the country [Reuters].

Suspected Maoist Rebels have attacked a train in eastern India, shooting three people dead and leaving two more injured.

The rebels circled and fired on the train at a stop 230 kilometres southeast of Patna, capital of the eastern state of Bihar, according to police officer SK Bhardwaj.

Bhardwaj said that the dead comprised two passengers and a security guard, and the two injured people sustained gunshot wounds in the attack.

The Maoist rebels were forced to abort their attack and flee to a nearby forest when the train's security guards began firing back, according to another police officer known only as Abhyanand.

The train, carrying 1,500 people, later resumed its journey.

It has been reported that the attackers were intent on robbing the guard's weapons, and indeed they managed to capture two guns before being forced to flee.

India's junior home minister RPN Singh denounced the attack, saying it was unfortunate that the Maoists had started targeting trains and political rallies and killing people in a barbaric manner.

The attack took place in an area of strong support for the rebels, who have been revolting against the Government for over 40 years in numerous Indian states. The Maoists claim to be inspired by revolutionary political figure Mao Zedong.

Last month, 28 people died and a further 24 were injured after another Maoist attack in the east of the country, in which rebels released a land mine and fired at supporters of India's ruling Congress party passing in a convoy of cars.

The Maoist insurgents are reportedly driven by a demand for land and employment for tribal communities, who lack food and money. The rebel network consists of thousands of fighters and operates in 20 of India's 28 states.

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has questioned security within India due to the internal uprisings from oppositon such as the Maoists.