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18 poachers in custody

Jorhat, Oct. 16: Karbi Anglong police have arrested 18 people, including a forest guard, over the past few days in connection with the killing of rhinos and smuggling of their horns.

The arrested include five poachers who were allegedly involved in the recent killing of two rhinos which had strayed out of Kaziranga National Park to the adjacent Karbi Anglong hills. The poachers had gouged out the horns of the animals and left them to bleed to death. The five have been identified as Lindok Rongpi, Chandra Ron-gpi, Joysing Fangsu, Larsing Fangsu and Borsing Rongpi.

“Lindok is the leader of the group. He has admitted to killing at least six rhinos of Kaziranga since 2008,” Karbi Anglong superintendent of police B.B. Chetri told The Telegraph over phone today. He said Lindok had admitted to killing six rhinos since 2008, including the two killed recently in Karbi Anglong. “He admitted to having killed one rhino ever year since 2008 and two this year.”

All the 18 people — the other 13 being Jiren Bey, Francies Mili, Shyambegu Lotha, Moniram Rongpi, Rajen Ingti, Manik Lotha, Tenjik Teron, Robinson Rongham, Babu Timung, Naru Deb, G. Gwankha, Surendra Prashad Gupta and forest guard Ramesh Terang — were produced in court and remanded in police custody today.

Chetri said the forest guard had a close relation with Lindok’s family and had helped him and the gang of poachers to sell the horns of the two rhinos killed in Karbi Anglong recently at Dimapur in neighbouring Nagaland.

The police have recovered a .303 rifle, an AK-56 rifle, a single barrel gun, some ammunition as well as a blood-stained axe, suspected to have been used to gouge out the horns of the two rhinos killed recently, from the arrested persons.

Chetri said the operation to apprehend the gang had started on October 14 and more arrests were likely to be made in the next few days. “Interrogation of the arrested persons will bring to light the involvement of more people and the functioning of the rhino horn trade.”

The SP said Karbi Anglong police were in touch with their counterparts in Dimapur where the rhino horns were sold. “We will need their help to arrest the entire group involved in rhino horn trade.”

Bokakhat police arrested Ghanakanta Kutum, father of notorious rhino poacher Bogaram Kutum of Aamtenga village, near Kaziranga, yesterday. Several animal parts were recovered from him. Bogaram and Ganesh Kutum are the two most wanted rhino poachers. “Operations are on to apprehend them,” Bokakhat circle inspector Premo Phukan told this correspondent today.