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Last Updated: Thursday, 6 September 2007, 13:26 GMT 14:26 UK
Monks release Burmese officials
map of Pakokku
Twenty Burmese security officials who were taken captive for several hours by Buddhist monks have been released.

The officials arrived at the monastery in the town of Pakokku to apologise for injuries caused during a protest on Wednesday about fuel price rises.

But angry monks set fire to their vehicles and refused to let them leave in one of the most heated of a series of protests over the price increases.

The officials were freed after a senior abbot intervened.

Crowds applaud

On Wednesday security forces had fired shots into the air to disperse 400 people in a rare demonstration by monks in Pakokku, 500km (310 miles) north of the country's commercial capital, Rangoon.

Fuel protest in Rangoon on 22 August
There have been protests around Burma since the fuel price rise

At least three monks were hurt, witnesses said.

When officials came to the monastery on Thursday, they were locked inside.

Hundreds of people gathered outside the gates to applaud the monks.

The first group of five captives was freed after about five hours and the remainder about 45 minutes later, witnesses said.

A series of anti-government protests has been held since the military junta doubled the price of petrol and diesel on 15 August.

The price of compressed natural gas - used for buses - increased fivefold.

The move was not announced ahead of time and the reasons behind it remain unclear, but it has hit people hard.

The demonstrations have continued despite the arrests of many of Burma's most prominent activists.

Dozens of people are now thought to be in detention.

On Wednesday, US President George W Bush condemned the crackdown by the Burmese authorities.

"It's inexcusable that we've got this kind of tyrannical behaviour in Asia," he said.

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