Communist rebels storm jail in eastern India

Suspected communist rebels stormed a jail in eastern India killing four people, including a jail guard, and freeing 300 prisoners, police officials said Monday. Around 500 rebels, many of them dressed in police uniforms, attacked Jehanabad town in Bihar state late Sunday, surrounded the jail and forced their way in, killing a jail guard and three others, said Ashish Ranjan Sinha, Bihar's police chief.

The rebels fled after freeing nearly 300 prisoners, many of them fellow insurgents, and took away a large number of guns and ammunition, he said.

Among those who escaped from the jail was a rebel commander, Ajay Kanu, said Ram Avdesh, district magistrate of Jehanabad, 30 kilometers (18 miles) south of the state capital, Patna.

The exact number of freed prisoners would only be known after a head count later Monday, Avdesh said.

The rebel attack came at a time when thousands of police and paramilitary soldiers were on duty in Bihar to provide security for state legislative elections held in parts of the state on Sunday. "They took advantage of the fact that most security forces were on guard duty at polling stations on Sunday," said A.S. Nimbran, an inspector general of police in Patna.

The rebels also kidnapped around 20 members of a private militia who were in jail.

In Bihar, considered to be India's most lawless state, wealthy landlords have recruited private militias to put down protests by landless peasants and workers demanding wages and other rights. The Maoist rebels, who have been fighting government forces to defend the rights of poor farmers and landless workers, often clash with these private militias, reports the AP. I.L.

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