Page last updated at 05:15 GMT, Thursday, 11 December 2008

Rebels freed in India jail break

By Subir Bhaumik
BBC News, Guwahati

Assam map

Separatist rebels have broken into a jail in India's north-eastern state of Assam and freed three of their jailed comrades, officials have said.

The rebels belong to the "Black Widow" group that is fighting for an independent homeland for the Dimasa tribe in the state.

The police said the rebels lobbed grenades as they broke into the jail at Haflong town early on Thursday.

The rebels have regularly attacked security forces and expatriate workers.

Assam police chief G M Srivastava said the guerrillas, who numbered between 15 and 20, later fired indiscriminately to cover their retreat, as they escaped with three of their jailed comrades.

"We have suspended all the policemen who were on duty on disciplinary grounds, for their failure to stop the jail break," he said.

Those freed by the "Black Widow" guerrillas included their top leader Daniel Dimasa.

Mr Srivastava said that police and paramilitary forces have started a massive combing operation around Haflong town.

The "Black Widow" group has been regularly attacking police, paramilitary forces and Bengali- and Hindi-speaking settlers in Assam's north Cachar hills district for the last four years since it broke away from its parent group, Dima Halam Daogah (DHD).

While the DHD is now involved in negotiations with the Indian government, the "Black Widow" faction led by Jewel Garlossa has said it will continue to wage a violent separatist campaign for a Dimasa homeland.

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