Poachers use AK-47s to kill rhinos in India

Updated 06 February 2013
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Poachers use AK-47s to kill rhinos in India

GAUHATI, India: Insurgents in India’s troubled northeast are suspected of using AK-47 assault rifles to hunt rare, one-horned rhinos to cash in on a huge demand for the animals’ horns in China and Southeast Asia, police said Wednesday.
Poaching has been rampant in and around the Kaziranga National Park in Assam state, where 21 rhinos were killed over the past year. A half dozen of them were killed in the past month alone using AK-47s, leading police to suspect that insurgents had joined the poaching, Assam state police chief Jayanta Narayan Choudhury said.
“This is serious,” top state elected official Tarun Gogoi said, adding that he was asking federal investigators to launch a probe into the rhino killings.
An estimated 2,500 out of the world’s 3,000 one-horned rhinos live in Kaziranga. Powdered versions of their horns are coveted in many Asian countries as a medicine or an aphrodisiac.
A group of protesters gathered at the park Tuesday and stripped to their underwear to express anger over the rhinos’ killings and to demand more state government action to protect the rare animals.
Some foreign tourists also lent their support. “I had come here to see the rhinos, but when I heard the animals were being killed by poachers at frightening regularity, I decided to join this protest,” Kenyan tourist Jenny Turner said.
The World Wildlife Fund said the Assam state’s porous borders with neighboring Bangladesh and Myanmar means that such weapons are easily available there and that poachers have easy access to illegal wildlife trade networks.
The 480-square kilometer (185-square mile) Kaziranga National Park is about 250 kilometers (155 miles) east of Gauhati, the state capital.
Nearly two dozen rebel groups in the northeast have been fighting for independence or wide autonomy for decades. They accuse the Indian government of exploiting the region’s rich natural resources.


UN Security Council meets over Syria in remote Swedish farmhouse

Updated 19 min 52 sec ago
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UN Security Council meets over Syria in remote Swedish farmhouse

BACKARA- SWEDEN: The UN Security Council met in a secluded farmhouse on the southern tip of Sweden on Saturday in a bid to overcome deep divisions over how to end the war in Syria.
In a first for the Council, which normally holds its annual brainstorming session in upstate New York, the 15 ambassadors and Secretary-General Antonio Guterres were this year invited to hold an informal meeting in Backakra by Sweden, a non-permanent member of the body.
The United Nations’ special envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, is expected on Sunday.
The farmhouse is the summer residence of Dag Hammarskjold, the United Nations’ second secretary-general who died in a plane crash in Africa in 1961.
Situated in the heart of a nature reserve, just a stone’s throw from the Baltic Sea, the farmhouse consists of four buildings around a courtyard and has been completely renovated in recent years.
The southern wing serves as the summer residence for the Swedish Academy which awards the Nobel Literature Prize.
With both New York and Damascus thousands of kilometers away, the Council is exploring “the means to strengthen and make more effective United Nations peacekeeping missions,” the Swedish government said.
Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom welcomed the decision to hold the meeting in Sweden, “where there is a long tradition of peaceful conflict prevention and resolution.”
But as she arrived in Backakra on Saturday morning she warned against being too hopeful the Syrian issue would be resolved over the weekend.
“Hopefully there will be some new ideas on the table and I think it’ll be on those tracks: the humanitarian situation, the chemical weapons,” she said.
But “not even the beautiful settings like these can solve all the problems,” the minister added.
The country’s deputy UN Ambassador Carl Skau said the idea was to foster dialogue and “relaunch momentum” with “humility and patience,” a week after the air strikes by France, Britain and the United States against the Syrian regime.
“It’s important for the council’s credibility,” Skau told reporters in New York.
While the war in Syria is not the only topic of the deliberations, it is high up on the agenda because it was an issue that divided council members deeply in recent months.
Skau said Backakra was a “fitting and inspiring venue” to reconnect with the power of diplomacy.
“It’s a place to roll up our sleeves, take off our jackets and ties and come up with some real and meaningful ways forward,” he said.