Indian villagers protest as 4 missing found dead

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GAUHATI, India (AP) — Police on Sunday fired rubber bullets and used batons to disperse hundreds of villagers protesting the abductions and killings of four Muslim traders in India's remote northeast, where ethnic tensions run high.

The protesters defied a curfew and beat up one police officer in Baksa district in Assam state, said Magistrate Vinod Seshan.

The traders were abducted on Friday and their bodies recovered Sunday. No one has claimed responsibility for the killings.

The villagers later retreated into their homes as army and paramilitary soldiers intensified patrols.

The region was rocked by violence in May when 45 people were killed after gunmen from the Bodo tribe set Muslim homes ablaze and fired at civilians.

The Bodos accuse Muslims of entering India illegally from neighboring Bangladesh.

A faction of the National Democratic Front of Bodoland, which is fighting for a separate homeland for the ethnic Bodo people for decades, denied police allegations that it had kidnapped the four traders.

In a statement, the group said the abductions were the outcome of local disputes in the Bodo heartland.

The National Democratic Front of Bodoland has split into three groups. Two of them are holding talks with the government for a peaceful settlement of their demand. However, one faction is still fighting in the region.

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