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Romanian rangers protest deaths of colleagues fighting illegal logging

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Bucharest (AFP)

Around 200 Romanian rangers on Tuesday protested in Bucharest after two of their colleagues were killed within a month while trying to stop illegal logging.

Environmentalists say deforestation is worsening in Romania, with Greenpeace estimating that 20 million cubic metres of wood (700 million cubic feet) are illegally harvested each year.

Forest managing company Romsilva says violent incidents have multiplied "against a background of strengthening measures to prevent and combat illegal cuts".

Some 40 environmental groups on Tuesday called on the government "to take action to dismantle organised criminal syndicates in the forestry sector and to strengthen the legislation against illegal logging".

The rangers who gathered in front of Romania's parliament brought wooden crosses and pictures of their murdered colleagues.

A ranger from Sacele from central Romania told AFP he himself had been attacked by a dozen "thieves" on horses.

"Our work has a lot of risks. We want to be able to carry weapons to protect ourselves", 47-year-old Nicolae said.

"A man is sometimes more dangerous than a bear", said another ranger, Marin, 43, overseeing more than 1,500 hectares (3,700 acres) in Neamt county in the north east.

Liviu Pop, a 30-year-old ranger, was shot dead two weeks ago in northern Romania "while trying to stop illegal logging", said Romsilva, which manages the public forests.

One of his colleagues was beaten to death by three people a month earlier in similar circumstances, according to Romsilva.

The company said 185 rangers had been attacked since 2014.

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