Rebels kill at least 17 troops in north-east India

NEW DELHI (AFP) - At least 17 troops were killed in a rebel ambush in a restive part of north-east India on Thursday, police said, calling it one of the worst such attacks in years.

Another 18 troops were wounded in the early morning attack in Manipur state which has long been affected by insurgent violence.

"I can confirm that at least 17 were killed and another 18 were injured in this massive ambush between 7.30 and 8.00 am," Shahid Ahmad, Director General of Manipur Police, told AFP by phone.

"It is one of the biggest attacks on security forces in recent years." N Herojit, superintendent of police in Chandel district where the ambush took place, said it was unclear which rebels were responsible.

The remote state of Manipur, which borders Myanmar, is home to dozens of tribal groups and small guerrilla armies fighting New Delhi's rule and has been plagued by separatist violence for decades.

At least 50,000 people have lost their lives in insurgency-driven violence in six of India's seven northeastern states since the country's independence from Britain in 1947, authorities say.

Militants say the northeast has been largely neglected by India's political leaders, accusing them of focusing on the development of the country's wealthier eight northern states.

Army spokesman Rohan Anand told AFP that he had received reports of an ambush in Manipur's Chandel district, but could not immediately confirm casualty numbers.