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Last Updated: Monday, 6 March 2006, 18:41 GMT
Prisoners 'freed' in Nepal attack
Nepal soldiers
Nepal has been fighting a Maoist insurgency for a decade
Maoist rebels have freed more than 100 prisoners in an attack on a hill town in eastern Nepal, authorities say.

At least 12 people, including seven rebels, were also killed in the clashes that followed the attack in Ilam Bazar.

Officials said the rebels also attacked a number of government offices. They said troops had repulsed the attack.

Violence has escalated across Nepal since the rebels abandoned a four-month unilateral ceasefire in January after the government refused to reciprocate.

The BBC's Sushil Sharma in Kathmandu says the rebels attacked Ilam Bazar town in Ilam district after arriving on buses and on foot late on Sunday.

They targeted government offices, including the local jail, and set more than 100 prisoners free.

It is not clear whether any Maoist prisoners were freed from the jail.

'Night of terror'

Three security personnel, seven rebels and two civilians were reportedly killed in the attack on the town.

There are fears that the number of casualties could rise, as civilians were caught in the fighting.

"We spent the night in terror. We could hear gun shots and explosions for several hours," Ilam resident Kamala Bhattarai told Reuters news agency.

An electricity station was also destroyed in the attack.

Around 20 policemen are reportedly missing after the clash.

Last week, more than 30 people died in clashes between troops and Maoist rebels in south-western Nepal.

More than 13,000 people have been killed in violence in Nepal since the rebels took up arms 10 years ago.

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