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Last Updated: Tuesday, 15 November 2005, 11:28 GMT
Indian soldiers help hunt rebels
Paramilitary soldier guards Jehanabad jail
A paramilitary guards Jehanabad jail ((Photo: Prashant Ravi)
India's federal government has sent soldiers and helicopters to the northern state of Bihar to hunt for Maoist rebels who attacked a prison.

Nearly 400 inmates were freed by armed rebels who stormed the jail in the town of Jehanabad on Sunday night.

About 1,000 rebels took part in the raid and subsequent battle with police. At least seven people were killed.

Thousands have died in Maoist campaigns across central and southern India in the past 30 years.


Nearly 600 paramilitary soldiers and two air force helicopters have been despatched to help the Bihar administration hunt the rebels, India's federal interior ministry said on Tuesday.

The most serious issue regarding the incident is that we had the information and despite that we could do nothing
Bihar Governor Buta Singh

State officials said they had also asked for another 500 soldiers, currently engaged in providing security for elections in the state, to help in the operation.

Bihar Governor Buta Singh told reporters that the local police had failed to react to intelligence reports about an imminent rebel attack.

The chief of police of Jehanabad district had been suspended, he said.

"The most serious issue regarding the incident is that we had the information and despite that we could do nothing," he told a news conference in Patna.

Rebel leader freed

Officials say at the time of the raid there were only about eight to 10 policemen on duty - many had been sent to guard polling stations, police said.

Grieving relatives of Bade Sharma outside the jail in Jehanabad (photo by Prashant Ravi)
Grieving relatives of Bade Sharma outside the jail

Bihar's police chief, Ashish Ranjan Sinha, said police were also looking to free a number of inmates who the rebels had abducted.

Most of those freed in Jehanabad were activists or supporters of the Maoists, officials said. They include rebel district commander Ajay Kanu.

The rebels also shot dead another prisoner, Binu Sharma, alias Bade Sharma, one of the commanders of Ranvir Sena, a banned upper caste private army.

India's government believes that there may be 10,000 armed Maoist rebels in the country, correspondents say.

Bihar, reputed to be India's most lawless state, is one of five states where Maoists are fighting for more rights for indigenous people.

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