Wild elephants kill five villagers in India

Wild elephants demolished two thatched-roof huts, killing five villagers in a pre-dawn attack today in India's remote northeast, an official said.

Wild elephants demolished two thatched-roof huts, killing five villagers in a pre-dawn attack today in India's remote northeast, an official said.

The dead included a woman and her two children, Magistrate Ishfaqur Rahman said.

The two elephants, who were apparently looking for food, disappeared into the forest after the attack in Bangsali, about 170 miles west of Gauhati, the capital of Assam state, he said.

The attack came less than three weeks after a wild elephant trampled to death a 60-year-old Dutch tourist who was on a bird and monkey safari in Kaziranga National Park in Assam.

India's northeast has the world's highest number of wild Asiatic elephants, with 7,000 estimated in the states of Assam and Meghalaya alone.

About 700 people have been killed by elephants in India's northeast in the past 19 years. Conservationists say rising elephant attacks on people are largely the result of the rapid shrinkage of their habitat.

The elephants often roam through villages looking for food.

Satellite imagery by India's National Remote Sensing Agency found that about 691,000 acres of thick forests were cleared by people in Assam state between 1996 and 2000.

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