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Maoist Rebels Storm Jail in Eastern India

Indian authorities have stepped up security in eastern Bihar state after Maoist rebels stormed a jail, killing at least two people. The attack took place in a state long considered India's most lawless.

Police say hundreds of heavily armed Maoist rebels entered Jehanabad town, cut off power and raided the prison, setting free around 300 inmates. The town lies 50 kilometers south of Bihar's capital, Patna.

The daring attack took place Sunday night when the prison was lightly guarded. Most of the city's police had been deployed to other parts of the state, where local elections are taking place. Authorities say many of the rebels were disguised as policemen.

The inspector general of police in Patna, Amrik Singh Nimbran said some of the rebels used a rope ladder to enter the prison and opened the gate from inside to let in their comrades.

Jehanabad residents said they heard gunshots and explosions throughout the night. They said the rebels made announcements ordering people to stay indoors.

Among the prisoners set free were fellow Maoists, including a rebel commander.

Police say the rebels also kidnapped at least two dozen jailed members of a private militia maintained by upper caste landlords to put down protests by workers and peasants. Clashes between the Maoist rebels and the militia are frequent.

Paramilitary forces have been rushed to the town.

The jailbreak was one of the biggest attacks mounted by Maoist rebels, who are active in several eastern states, a region that is poorer and more underdeveloped than other parts of the country.

The rebels say they are fighting for the rights of landless laborers and impoverished peasants.

The insurgents have recently stepped up their activities and analysts have warned they are developing links to Maoists in neighboring Nepal.

Chaos continued Monday as hundreds of curious residents thronged the prison gates and angry family members of inmates demanded information about their relatives.