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Last Updated: Tuesday, 20 September 2005, 09:59 GMT 10:59 UK
Ambush kills nine Indian soldiers
At least nine soldiers and six rebels have been killed in a spurt of violence in India's north-eastern state of Manipur, security forces say.

The soldiers were killed in two separate ambushes.

Meanwhile, six rebels were killed in factional fighting between two groups claiming to represent the interests of the Zomi tribe in southern Manipur.

The Indian army has been carrying out extensive counter-insurgency operations in the state since early this year.

Soldiers from the elite Gorkha Rifles regiment were clearing a road for troop movement at Ngareyan, 35 km from state capital Imphal, when they came under attack from rebels of the Manipur People's Liberation Front (MPLF).

Indian army spokesman Lt Col SD Goswami told the BBC: "In areas dominated by rebels, military patrols drive through and allow other vehicles to pass only if the rebels have not showed up to challenge them."

Earlier reports suggesting that 14 soldiers had died in this incident have proved to be incorrect.

The MPLF - an umbrella organisation of three leading separatist groups in Manipur - claimed responsibility for this attack, and another at Jirghat on the border of Assam state.

One soldier was killed in the second attack.

Factional fighting

Six rebels of the Zomi Revolutionary Front (ZRF) were killed in a clash with activists of the Zomi Revolutionary Army (ZRA) in Churanchandpur district. One ZRA activist was also injured, police say.

Indian soldier in Manipur
A special law gives the Indian army extensive powers in the north-east
Both groups claim to represent the interests of the Zomi, a tribe in southern Manipur.

The ZRA has agreed to suspend hostile operations against the Indian army, but the other group says it wants to fight on.

More than 10 armed insurgent groups are active in Manipur.

Most of these groups represent the state's majority Hindu Meitei people, but others represent tribes such as the Nagas, Kukis and Zomis.

Manipur became a fully fledged Indian state in 1972, but unrest has simmered since then over the nature of the remote state's relationship with the central Indian government.

Last summer bitter anti-army protests erupted in the state after the death of a young women arrested by paramilitary forces on suspicion of helping insurgents.

The protests were accompanied by demands for the repeal of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act which gives the army in north-east India sweeping powers to deal with insurgents.

Human rights groups such as Amnesty International say the law has allowed the armed forces to commit human rights abuses with impunity.

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