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Back-to-back rhino killings

Guwahati/Jorhat, Jan. 29: Poachers have killed two rhinos in two days at Kaziranga, prompting Assam forest minister Rakibul Hussain to call for a CBI probe into the racket.

Five rhinos have already been killed in Assam this year, after 21 last year. The latest killing happened last night at Parku Pahar range in Karbi Anglong district, close to the Bagori range of the Kaziranga National Park.

On Sunday night, a rhino was killed less than a kilometre away, at Kaziranga’s Burapahar range.

Forest guards heard gunshots around 10.20 last night and returned the fire but by the time they reached the spot around 11, the poachers had cut off the horn and vanished, Bagori range officer K. Deka said.

Two spent .303 cartridges, an axe, two gunny bags and two machetes were found. Sniffer dogs then led forest officials to one Bikhou Engti in the village of Silim Khowa Gaon. Engti was arrested but local people stormed and vandalised the lock-up at the Bagori range office and freed him.

Forest department sources said such mob action was unusual. A search is on for Engti.

Minister Hussain today requested chief minister Tarun Gogoi to press for a CBI inquiry and nudge the home ministry to speed up the allotment of AK rifles to Assam’s forest guards ---- a proposal pending since last year.

“The chief minister had earlier written to the CBI but the agency did not take up the case. I requested him today to pursue the matter,” Hussain said. “We need to find out why poaching continues despite increased patrolling.”