GUWAHATI, Feb 7 (IANS) - Heavily armed militants kidnapped six officials, including three women, of international conservation group World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) from the famed Manas National Park in Assam, officials Monday said.
A police spokesperson said the six WWF officials were abducted late Sunday from the sanctuary, about 200 km west of Assam's main city of Guwahati and bordering Bhutan.
�A group of about 20 armed militants kidnapped the six WWF officials, including three women members, while they were carrying out tiger and elephant counting and monitoring exercises inside the Manas National Park area,� Kampa Borgoyary, deputy chief of the Bodoland Territorial Council (BTC).
The BTC is an autonomous council and its members are elected representatives.
�The six WWF officials were accompanied by members of a local wildlife conservation group, but the militants segregated the group and took away the WWF officials,� the BTC deputy chief told IANS by telephone from Manas.
The identity of the militants is not immediately known.
�A massive hunt is on to rescue the kidnapped WWF officials,� Borgoyary said.
At least three militant groups are active in the area - the outlawed National Democratic Front of Boroland (NDFB), the Adivasi Cobra Force, and the Birsa Commando Force.
�The gunmen were all masked. We are taking the help of locals in the rescue mission,� the BTC deputy chief said.
Manas is also a Tiger Reserve and is home to 22 of the 41 endangered wildlife species listed in India's Wildlife (Protection) Act, including the rare pygmy hogs, the golden langur, tigers, one-horned rhinoceros, and wild Asiatic elephants.
There are an estimated 70 tigers in the park, adjoining the foothills of Bhutan.