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In northeast India, rebels kill army soldiers

Heavily armed rebels have killed at least 21 Indian army soldiers in an ambush in Manipur state. The region has long been a hotbed for insurgents fighting the government in Delhi.

Police said the soldiers were killed on Thursday when a group of rebels armed with rocket-propelled grenades and automatic weapons attacked a military convoy in Chandel district traveling to the state capital, Imphal.

Fourteen soldiers were also injured in the attack, one of the worst such incidents in the troubled region in years. The injured were flown to hospital from the remote area by helicopter, a police officer said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

No group has yet claimed responsibility for the attack.

The army said it had launched a search for the attackers in the area.

The Chandel district was shut down on Wednesday in protest at the killing of a local woman by soldiers on Monday, but police said it was too early to say whether Thursday's attack was in retaliation for the shooting.

Indian Defense Minister Manohar Parrikar condemned the attack, saying on his Twitter account that "those who committed the cowardly act would be brought to book."

Restive region

The state is home to a number of militant groups fighting New Delhi's rule. Their demands range from secession to greater autonomy, with the separatist groups often accusing the government of

exploiting the resource-rich region while failing to promote local development.

Most of the main rebel groups in the state are not holding cease-fire talks with the Indian government, in contrast with insurgents in other remote northeastern states.

The South Asia Terrorism Portal, a website monitoring extremist groups in the region, estimates that around 6,000 people have been killed in Manipur in incidents connected with militancy since 1992.

tj/kms (AFP, AP, dpa)

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