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15 policemen killed in India election violence

February 25, 2007|From the Associated Press

GUWAHATI, INDIA — Fifteen police officers were killed Saturday when suspected rebels ambushed their patrol in India's remote northeast, officials said.

Sixty armed police officers who had been supervising elections in Bishenpur district were traveling in six vehicles back to their headquarters when rebels fired on them with automatic weapons, local police chief Jayanta Singh said.

A fierce gun battle ensued, and the rebels then fled into dense forest, Singh said.

Fourteen policemen died at the scene and another at a hospital.

Seven other officers were critically wounded, so the toll could rise, Singh added.

It was the worst attack in the area near the Myanmar border since the elections began Feb. 8. Voting is staggered in the insurgency-racked region to help security forces prevent violence.

Though Singh blamed rebels for the attack, he did not name a specific group.

The National Socialist Council of Nagaland and Manipur People's Liberation Front are among several rebel groups that have been fighting for decades for independent homelands in Manipur and the neighboring state of Nagaland.

The militants say the central government in New Delhi, 1,000 miles to the west, exploits the northeast's rich natural resources while doing little for its indigenous people, most of whom are ethnically closer to Myanmar and China than to the rest of India.

The bitterness toward the national government, fueled by poor infrastructure and vast unemployment in the far northeast, has nurtured dozens of militant groups.

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