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Tuesday, 25 July, 2000, 09:39 GMT 10:39 UK
Priest killed in Tripura attack
By Subir Bhaumik in Calcutta

Police in India's north-eastern state of Tripura say that a Catholic priest was killed and two others were seriously injured when unidentified gunmen opened fire on their vehicle early on Tuesday.

The Inspector-General of Tripura police, K Salim Ali, told the BBC that a jeep carrying the priests was heading for the remote village of Kanhmun, on Tripura's border with the Mizoram state, when it came under heavy fire on Tuesday.

Mr Ali said that some tribal guerrillas in olive-green uniform were trying to kidnap two Bengalis travelling in another vehicle on the same road when the jeep carrying the Catholic priests appeared.

He said that the driver panicked and tried to speed away, leading the rebels to open fire.

Mr Ali said that one Catholic priest, Victor Crasto, was killed on the spot, while two other priests, Paul Leo and Alfred Fernandes, were seriously injured.

The driver of the vehicle, a local tribal, was also said to be in a critical condition.

Possible mistake

Mr Crasto, who hailed from the western Indian state of Goa, was connected with the administration of a chain of Catholic schools called the Holy Cross in Tripura.

Mr Ali said that the identity of the gunmen could not be immediately established, but he said that the rebels possibly belonged to the National Liberation Front of Tripura (NLFT), who he felt had attacked the priests completely by mistake.

The NLFT actually seeks to impose Christianity on Tripura's tribal communities, but most of its guerrillas are Baptists rather than Catholics.

The Catholic Church in Tripura has generally stayed away from the controversy regarding the conversion of tribals.

They had even appealed to the NLFT rebels to release four Hindu nationalist leaders of the Rastriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), who were kidnapped by the rebels in August last year and are still being held captive.

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07 Jun 00 | South Asia
Catholic priest killed in Mathura
30 Sep 99 | South Asia
India under fire over Christian rights
12 Jun 00 | South Asia
Indian Christians demand protection
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