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Militants release 3 WWF volunteers

Militants today released three of the six volunteers of World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) they had abducted from western Assam's Manas National Park on Sunday.

india Updated: Feb 08, 2011 19:36 IST

Militants on Tuesday released three of the six volunteers of World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) they had abducted from western Assam's Manas National Park on Sunday.

Police said the three – Tarali Goswami, Srabana Goswami and Pallabi Chakraborty – were freed post-dusk in a forested area near Bongaigaon town 210 km west of Guwahati. "They are unharmed but in a state of shock," a police officer said, adding they were yet to find out if ransom was paid for the release of the three women.

Manas field director Anindya Swargiary had earlier said forest officials were in touch with the abductors for the release of the hostages. "We believe all of them will be released within the next 24 hours," he added.

At least three rebel outfits, two catering to Maoist-backed Adivasis, operate in the area close to the border with Bhutan. But fingers in this case have been pointed at the National Democratic Front of Boroland whose chairman Ranjan Daimary is behind bars.

Sunday's abduction, meanwhile, has had repercussion in the Unesco that had been monitoring Manas toward ridding it of its 'danger' tag. "This is a setback," said Unesco representative Ram Bhuj in New Delhi.

Nothing went right for Manas, also a tiger reserve, after the Unesco accorded it a World Heritage Site status in 1985. But militants subsequently laid siege to the park forcing the UN body to demote it to World Heritage Site in Danger by the mid-1990s.

But Manas bounced back to be on the path of recovery from 2005. A series of animal translocation programmes subsequently saw its rhino, elephant and tiger population increasing.