Assault on birdwatchers in Malta
More detail has emerged of a brutal attack on a number of birdwatchers taking part in a bird protection camp in Malta. At about 8.30 am on 1 May, five men wearing balaclavas set an ambush for the German team from IAR's partner campaigners, the Committee Against Bird Slaughter, who were on vehicle patrol in a narrow country lane near Il-Qaws in the limits of Dingli.
The team that was attacked said that the hooded men blocked the vehicle's passage and threw several heavy rocks at it, completely shattering the windows. "One of the rocks broke through the side window and missed the driver's head by inches". CABS head of teams Axel Hirschfeld, who is coordinating operations on Malta said the attackers then tried to open the car doors and drag out the team members. The occupants, two bird guards from Germany, escaped by the skin of their teeth and were fortunate to incur only slight injuries.
The Rabat District Police and CID are investigating the case. A couple of days before the CABS teams arrived in Malta some one painted slogans against them, some of them threatening.
There have also been savage attacks against CABS teams in Italy and Cyprus this year, with a number of birdwatchers being treated for their injuries in hospital. However CABS's representatives insist that this will not deter them from monitoring illegal hunting activity and has in fact made them more determined than ever to catch the culprits.
Following the end of the bird protection camp CABS has announced that they will pay a reward of up to 10,000 Euros for information leading to the arrest of the five men who carried out the attack. "It was only a matter of luck that no one was seriously hurt" states CABS president Heinz Schwarze. According to CABS five masked men took part in the assault. "A sum of 2,000 Euros will be paid out for information leading to the arrest and conviction of each of the five criminals," promises Schwarze.
"It is not usually our policy to resort to such means. But in view of the escalating violence against our members we have decided that this step is now necessary."
CABS also announced that pictures taken by them that identify poachers in the countryside will be published on their website at www.komitee.de/en. "The police have not yet been able to identify all the poachers filmed by us in the last two weeks,” comments CABS spokesperson Axel Hirschfeld. Anyone recognising the men in the photos should contact the ALE or - anonymously if necessary - the CABS office in Germany or their partners International Animal Rescue or Bird Life in Malta.