22 Apr 2009

Maoist rebels release train passengers in India

8:15 pm on 22 April 2009

Maoist rebels who seized a train carrying several hundred passengers in eastern India have released them, police say.

Up to 250 rebels took over the train as it travelled through Jharkhand state and forced it to stop in a remote town on Wednesday.

They held the passengers for a short time but then withdrew. A Maoist spokesman there was no plan to cause harm and it was a symbolic gesture.

It came a day before the second round of voting in India's general election.

The rebels have asked people to boycott the polls, which are taking place until 13 May.

At least 17 people were killed in attacks blamed on Maoists during the first stage of the election last week.

The train was seized at 8.30am local time as it passed through a remote part of the state. Just over three hours later the rebels freed the hostages and retreated into the jungle, police told the BBC.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has described Maoist violence as India's biggest internal security threat.

About 500 civilians and police were killed in insurgent clashes last year.