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23 Killed in Indian Tribal Massacre - 2003-04-04


Police in India say 23 people have been killed in the remote northeast in an incident related to tribal conflict.

Police officials say the victims belonged to the Dimasa tribe, who live in Assam's Cachar district, about 400 kilometers south of the state's largest town, Gawahati.

According to police officials, gunmen from the Hmar tribe attacked three villages occupied by the rival Dimasa tribe on Tuesday, burning hundreds of huts, attacking villagers and taking 28 people as hostages.

Paramilitary troops, after an extensive manhunt, found 23 bodies in a thick forest. Police say it appears that gunmen opened fire on the hostages after tying their hands behind their backs. A search is continuing for still-missing villagers.

Nearly 500 Dimasa tribe people have fled the area and taken shelter in nearby school buildings.

Police say militants from the two warring tribes have been fighting for territorial supremacy for decades. They say the Hmar group probably mounted the massacre in retaliation for the recent attack on their tribe by a militant group sympathetic to the Dimasa tribe.

Police have stepped up security in Assam, which is one of seven states in India's remote northeast.

The mountainous region is home to more than 200 ethnic groups and has been wracked by violence for decades.

Several militant groups are fighting for either autonomy or independence from India. Dozens of tribes have been fighting for years over land and politics in a region that remains underdeveloped. The militants accuse the federal government of plundering the state's rich natural resources, and neglecting the local economy.

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