Police: Hundreds of rebels surrender in east India

Hundreds of separatist rebels laid down arms and surrendered to authorities Tuesday in India's remote, insurgency-wracked northeast, a top police official said.

More than 370 rebels of the Dima Halam Daogah group in the insurgency-riven state of Assam emerged from their jungle hide-outs and handed in their weapons to the police, said Bhaskar Jyoti Mahanta, Assam's inspector general of police.

The rebels, also known as the "Black Widow" group, are fighting for an independent homeland for the ethnic Dimasa tribes. In the past six months, the rebels have launched a string of attacks targeting mostly government employees, killing at least 100 of them in the southern districts of Assam state.

The attacks in Assam's North Cachar Hills had halted several federal rail and highway projects and forced railroad authorities to stop train services to the area indefinitely.

The arrest of suspected rebel leader Jewel Garlossa in the southern Indian city of Bangalore in June gave government forces a breakthrough. Assam state and federal authorities stepped up efforts to hunt down the rebels, sending more than 7,000 army and paramilitary reinforcements.

The government and the rebels recently agreed to a cease-fire agreement which had set Tuesday as the deadline for surrendering arms, before formal peace talks could begin, Mahanta told The Associated Press.

The rebels, clad in olive-green fatigues, were driven in buses under heavy police and paramilitary escort to a police base near Haflong, a district town 300 kilometers (180 miles) south of Gauhati, Assam's capital.

"They have deposited weapons including automatic assault rifles, rocket launchers, machine guns, and a variety of explosives and small arms," Mahanta said.

Dozens of rebel groups have been fighting for years in India's seven northeastern states, demanding greater regional autonomy or independent homelands for indigenous peoples. The rebel groups accuse the federal government of exploiting the region's rich mineral resources and timber, while neglecting people's welfare.