• Reuters

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Two prisoners were killed, three were injured and 13 escaped in India’s eastern state of Jharkhand on Tuesday after they threw chilli powder in the faces of police bringing them back to jail from a court appearance.

Police said the two prisoners under trial, suspected of being Maoist insurgents, were killed in a shootout in front of the jail in the town of Chaibasa, in the mineral-rich district of West Singhbhum.

Jharkhand police spokesman Anurag Gupta said police had launched a search operation to capture the fugitives who were among a group of 54 prisoners being brought back from the court.

“Police have identified all the prisoners that have escaped,” Gupta said. “As per information available, only one of those escaped is an important Maoist — the others are criminals facing different charges.”

Jharkhand, carved out of the state of Bihar in 2000, is part of the so-called Naxalite belt that runs down India’s eastern flank and is the scene of a tribal insurgency that has defied government efforts to enforce order.

The state, which has a population of 33 million, is holding elections to its assembly with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s nationalist Bharatiya Janata party hoping to achieve gains.

The elections are staggered over five stages due to the security situation and will be completed on Dec. 20.

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