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Oregon activists continue to hold out

An armed rabble remain holed up at a US federal wildlife refuge in Oregon. They have vowed to leave only if asked to do so by locals. A Nevada native, the son of a rancher, has led the self-styled militia-men.

The man who has led the revolt at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge since the weekend, Ammon Bundy, said the siege would continue until the federal government abandons control of the reserve to local residents.

"It is our goal to get the logger back to logging, to get the rancher back to ranching, to get the miner back to mining, the farmer back to farming and to jump-start this economy in Harney County," he told reporters.

The situation in Oregon is a reflection of a decades-old dispute over land rights in the US, where the federal government controls just over half the territory in 13 states in the west.

Bundy's group took over the refuge on Saturday to protest the jailing of two local ranchers, Dwight Hammond and his son Steven, who were convicted of arson. The two ranchers have distanced themselves from the group.

Harney County Sheriff David Ward on Monday called for the activists to pack up and leave town.

"Go home, be with your own families and end this peacefully," said Ward.

For their part, federal law enforcement officials have kept their distance, following guidelines instituted to prevent a repeat of deadly standoffs such as those in Ruby Ridge, Idaho, and Waco, Texas in the early 1990s.

The Bundy family led a 2014 stand-off with federal authorities in Nevada over grazing rights on their ranch.

Many locals have also denounced the group's tactics.

Nearly 53 percent of the land in Oregon is owned by the US government, and that has led to tensions with local communities over mining, ranching, grazing and logging rights.

Locals say tough environmental laws have made it more difficult to make a living.

av/msh (AFP, AP)

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