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Soldiers killed by suspected rebels

Suspected rebels sprayed bullets on a bus carrying Indian paramilitary soldiers in a remote forest area in the north-east, killing eight and wounding another 11 soldiers, police said.

The attackers ambushed the vehicle and fired from automatic weapons from both sides of the road on Monday night, said Bhaskar Jyoti Mahanta, an inspector-general of police.

The attackers fled in the dark before paramilitary soldiers in two bulletproof vehicles escorting the bus could engage them, Mr Mahanta said

The ambush happened in Kokrajhar district, around 150 miles from Gauhati, the capital of Assam state.

The paramilitary soldiers were returning to their base after a routine patrol near India's border with Bhutan. Three soldiers died on the spot while eight died later in hospital, Mr Mahanta said.

More than 30 rebel groups in the north-east have been fighting for decades for independence or wide autonomy in the region about 1,000 miles east of New Delhi.

The separatists accuse the Indian government of exploiting Assam's natural resources while doing little for the indigenous people, most of whom are ethnically closer to the people of Burma and China than to other Indians.

Also on Monday, a powerful explosive device went off outside the governing Congress party office in Gauhati, injuring three party workers, said Pallab Bhattacharya, a police officer.

No one claimed responsibility for the two attacks, which came less than three weeks before the state legislature elections. Police believe the attackers were a faction of the National Democratic Front of Bodoland, which opposes peace talks held between the group and the Indian government since last year.

Its leader, Ranjan Daimary, has been in Indian custody since he was handed over by Bangladesh authorities last year. He had taken refuge in neighbouring Bangladesh to escape Indian forces.

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