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A Catholic priest was found beheaded in a forest in northern India, apparently killed for aiding the region's low-caste untouchables, colleagues said today.

A search party from the Australian-run mission that employed the Rev. A.T. Thomas found his decapitated body Monday near Sirka village, three days after he was abducted from the village's meeting place.

He was the third Catholic clergyman killed in the past two years in Bihar, India's least-developed state, where caste-based gang wars have killed hundred of residents in recent years.

Father Thomas, an Indian working for the Province of the Society of Jesus, had established 15 schools and health projects for Harijans, or untouchables, who occupy the lowest rung in the hierarchy of the Hindu caste system.

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