Six wildlife volunteers working for the WWF in eastern India have been kidnapped by armed militants, Indian police said Monday.
The abductions from Manas national park in the state of Assam occurred Sunday, just a few hours after Bodo tribal groups announced their decision to renew their campaign for a separate state, the BBC reports.
The three men and three women, all Indian nationals, were counting tigers and elephants and monitoring exercises inside the park when they were abducted by 20 masked men.
“A major hunt is under way to rescue them,” Kampa Borgoyary, deputy chief of the local Bodoland Territorial Council (BTC), told AFP.
Borgovary said the abductees were accompanied by members of a local wildlife conservation group, and that the armed men “segregated the group and took away the WWF people.”
Rebels have been known to attack and sometimes kill wildlife officials in the region, AFP reports.
Manas, home to nearly two dozen of India’s endangered wildlife species, is located beside the foothills of Bhutan, about 120 miles west of Assam’s main city of Guwahati.
Authorities have not identified the rebels, but three militant groups are presently active in the area, including the National Democratic Front of Bodoland.
That group seeks to form a separate state for Assam’s Bodo tribespeople.