Officials: 15 Policemen Killed in Rebel Ambush in India

Fifteen police officers were killed Saturday after suspected rebels ambushed a their patrol in India's remote northeast, officials said.

The policemen were returning from election duty in the district of Bishenpur in Manipur state when they were ambushed, said local police chief Jayanta Singh.

A convoy of 60 armed policemen in six vehicles was returning to the district headquarters in Bishenpur town after supervising the last phase of elections to Manipur's state legislature when rebels armed with automatic weapons fired on them, Singh said.

Fourteen policemen died on the spot and another died later in a hospital. "The death toll may rise as seven others are critically wounded," Singh said.

Police retaliated and a fierce gunbattle ensued after which the rebels retreated into the densely forested area, Singh added.

This is the worst incidence of violence since voting started in phases on Feb 8. Voting is staggered in the insurgency-wracked region to help security forces prevent rebel attacks.

While Singh said that rebels were behind the attack he did not name any specific group.

The National Socialist Council of Nagaland and Manipur People's Liberation Front are among several rebel groups that have been fighting for decades for independent homelands in the states of Manipur and neighboring Nagaland.

The militants say the central government in New Delhi — 1,000 miles to the west — exploits the northeast's rich natural resources while doing little for the indigenous people, most of them ethnically closer to Burma and China than to the rest of India.

The northeast has poor infrastructure, widespread unemployment and a bitterness toward the national government that has nurtured dozens of militant groups.