Silchar: Assam chief minister Himanta Biswa Sarma on Saturday evening ordered a probe into the killing of two suspected poachers in Nagaon’s Laokhowa Wildlife Sanctuary by a forest guard.

Assam chief minister Himanta Biswa Sarma (File Photo)

Sarma on Saturday evening wrote on X (formerly Twitter), “Last night, individuals from Sutirpar village trespassed into Lawkhua-Burachapari Reserve Forest. During an encounter with patrolling forest guards, a guard opened fire in self-defence, resulting in the deaths of Samaruddin (35) and Abdul Jalil (40). I have directed the Chief Secretary of Assam to immediately constitute an inquiry to investigate the incident thoroughly.”

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According to Jayanta Deka, Divisional Forest Officer (DFO), Nagaon, the incident took place at around 1am on Saturday when a team of 15 suspected poachers entered the Charaihagi forest camp area in Laokhowa Wildlife Sanctuary.

“They were fishing in Rowmari Beel, which was illegal, but the time of the act was more suspicious. We have a rhino population in Laokhowa Wildlife Sanctuary, and it was suspected that they had intentions to catch rhinos,” Deka said.

According to the DFO, the forest guards came under attack from the alleged poachers after they went there to stop them, and in self-defence, a forest guard fired on them. “They attacked our guards with machetes and other weapons and our guards had to use firearms in self-defence,” Deka said.

According to the director of Kaziranga National Park (KNP) and Tiger Reserve, Sonali Ghosh, the forest patrolling parties on Rhino protection duty were attacked by 20 armed miscreants near Roumari Beel, under Gorajan Range of Laokhowa Wildlife Sanctuary.

“When challenged, the intruders attacked the forest guards with sharp weapons, and the forest team opened fire in self-defence. Later, DFO, Nagaon and the superintendent of police reached the spot and the two fatally wounded intruders were taken to the Nagaon Civil Hospital, where they were pronounced dead,” she said.

Nagaon superintendent of police (SP) Swapnaneel Deka said that the forest officials have lodged a first information report (FIR) at Juria Police Station against 15 unknown people.

“We are yet to identify the accused. An investigation is going on”, the SP said.

The KNP director said that the Roumari beel and adjoining grassland areas are one of the most prominent rhino habitats under Laokhowa Wildlife Sanctuary. The sanctuary had a tragic past of rhino poaching, illegal fishing, hunting, and encroachment in the 1980s.

“In the mid-1980s, around 45 rhinos were poached to local extinction. Miscreants are known to have attacked forest staff on multiple occasions. For the last two years, the forest department has strengthened the boundaries with additional forest frontlines and maintained a strong vigil. It is due to such interventions that 2-3 rhinos that had naturally migrated from Orang Tiger Reserve have moved in the Roumari landscape since October last year,” Ghosh added.

The deceased identified as Jalil Uddin and Sameer Uddin were the residents of Dhingbari Chapari village in Juria. They were siblings and were aged below 30, according to the police.