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Thursday, 2 November, 2000, 18:29 GMT
Ten killed in Manipur gunbattle
Map
At least 10 civilians have been killed in a shoot-out between Indian troops and separatist rebels in the north-eastern state of Manipur.

The victims were caught in crossfire during an exchange between paramilitary troops and the rebels, who were said to belong to the People's Liberation Army (PLA).

Five paramilitary soldiers were also seriously injured.


In the ensuing gun battle that followed at least 10 civilians, including a woman, were killed in the crossfire

Police chief DS Grewal
Manipur Police chief DS Grewal told the BBC that a convoy of three vehicles carrying paramilitary troops came under attack near the airport in Imphal, the Manipur capital.

He said the rebels first set off an explosion that badly damaged one of the three vehicles and seriously wounded five soldiers.

"In the ensuing gun battle that followed at least 10 civilians, including a woman, were killed in the crossfire," Mr Grewal is quoted as saying by the AFP news agency.

He said the shoot-out, which took place near a crowded market, lasted for about 40 minutes.

Heavy fire

The rebels were said to have retreated under cover of heavy firing.

One report quotes witnesses as saying the soldiers panicked after the explosion and fired indiscriminately.

"The soldiers went berserk and started firing on villagers waiting near a market close to the site of the blast," a witness is reported as saying.

Police say they are combing the highway on which the gunbattle took place.

The road leads into Burma from Imphal and is an area where some of the heaviest fighting took place between Allied forces and Japan during World War II.

The BBC's Subir Bhaumik says Manipur has been gripped by a separatist rebellion since the mid 1970s, spearheaded by a number of groups of which the PLA is the most formidable.

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See also:

01 Nov 00 | South Asia
Burmese army 'attacks' Indian rebels
18 Sep 00 | South Asia
Rebels ban Hindi films
07 Jan 00 | South Asia
India seeks Burma border help
07 Sep 00 | South Asia
Rebel bases in Bhutan 'under attack'
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