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Two elephants kill 8 in Indian villages

- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 26, 2007

GAUHATI, India — Two domesticated elephants went on a rampage through several villages in northeastern India, killing eight persons and injuring five before being shot dead by police, officials said today.

Police were searching for the owners and trying to establish what caused the violent behavior. Angry villagers protesting the lack of protection burned down the local forestry office.

The rampage occurred yesterday in an area bordering India's Assam and Mizoram states, said Gautam Ganguly, a senior government official in the area.

The male and female elephants ran through at least five villages in Assam, trampling anyone in their way and knocking down several of the mud-and-thatch houses before crossing into the neighboring state of Mizoram, where police were called in.

"Men of the Mizoram police finally gunned the elephants down after dusk," Mr. Ganguly said.

The elephants were used in logging operations. It was not immediately clear what caused them to lose control.

Mr. Ganguly said it was possible that the male elephant was in a state called "musth," a little understood period when male elephants often become aggressive.

The Press Trust of India news agency said the incident started when the male was hit on the head by a falling log.

Local government officials said the families of the dead would receive $1,250 in compensation.

The remote region is home to about 5,000 wild Asiatic elephants, and conflicts between the elephants and humans have been on the rise due to constant encroachment on the animals' habitat. However, attacks by domesticated elephants are extremely rare.