Sinlung /
07 February 2011

Armed Men Abduct 6 WWF-India Volunteers From Tiger Reserve in India's Northeast

By Wasbir Hussain

northeast india mapGuwahati, Feb 7 : Heavily armed men have kidnapped six volunteers from WWF-India who were counting the tiger population at a reserve in India's remote northeast, an official from the conservation group said Monday.

The three men and three women, all Indian nationals, were abducted Sunday at the Manas Tiger Reserve in Assam state, said Anupam Sharma, a WWF-India official. He said no one has claimed responsibility for the kidnapping.

More than 30 groups in the northeast have been fighting for decades for independence from India or wide autonomy in the region, about 1,000 miles (1,600 kilometres) east of New Delhi. The area near the tiger preserve is a stronghold of the National Democratic Front of Bodoland, a rebel group opposed to peace talks with the Indian government.

Sharma said people living near the tiger reserve reported the attack to other WWF-India volunteers working in the area.

He said the volunteers were taking a census of the reserve's tiger population when they were abducted. The park, which spans into neighbouring Bhutan, has a sizable population of Royal Bengal tigers and wild Asiatic elephants.

A police officer confirmed the abduction. He said police had yet to establish the identity of the kidnappers, but noted the area was home to the National Democratic Front of Bodoland.

He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the media.

The militants in the region say the Indian government exploits the region's rich natural resources while doing little for the indigenous people, most of whom are ethnically closer to those in nearby Myanmar and China than the rest of India.

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