PATNA, India (AFP) - Police shot dead at least two prisoners on Tuesday as they tried to escape in eastern India while 13 others managed to get away by hurling chilli powder at their guards, authorities said.
The prisoners staged the get-away outside a prison in Chaibasa, Jharkhand, one of India's poorest states that is grappling with a Maoist insurgency.
"Two prisoners facing trial who tried to escape were killed and 13 others managed to flee," Jharkhand police spokesman Anurag Gupta said by phone.
Fifty-four prisoners were being transported from court back to jail when fifteen of them made a bid for freedom by throwing chilli powder in their guards' eyes.
"They were being brought back to the jail when some prisoners threw chilli powder (at their guards) to escape," police superintendent N.K. Singh said.
Police opened fire to try to stop the men running away, he said, killing two.
One of the 13 prisoners who managed to escape was an "important Maoist" leader, Gupta added.
Police said the state's borders had been sealed and a massive manhunt has been launched for the escaped prisoners.