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Indian troops struggle to calm violence

Angry mobs have attacked Muslim homes and businesses
Angry mobs have attacked Muslim homes and businesses  

AHMEDABAD, India (CNN) -- Security forces in western India are struggling to calm communal violence that is pitting Hindus against Muslims.

Officials say scores of people have been killed by mobs of angry Hindus attacking and burning Muslim homes and businesses in the city of Ahmedabad, the commercial hub of Gujarat state.

As army and paramilitary troops arrived in the riot-hit city Friday, the mayor told reporters he fears "between 80 and 100 people" have been killed in his city alone in two days of violence, including a dozen children.

Another 100 people have been injured, the mayor said, amid boiling statewide tensions.

The rioting comes in retaliation for what police say was a Muslim mob attack on a train Wednesday on a train that left at least 58 dead, most of them Hindus and many children.

The army, which was asked by the local administration to intervene, plans to stage a flag march in Ahmedabad later Friday to demonstrate their control of the situation.

CNN's Satinder Bindra reports from New Delhi on fears of escalating violence
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CNN's Satinder Bindra reports police across India are bracing for violence after a mob set fire to a train carrying hundreds of Hindu activists.

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The Defense Minister George Fernandes is due to visit the area Friday -- the day the World Hindu Council, a right-wing Hindu group, has set for a general strike.

Across the state sporadic violence was reported overnight.


Authorities have imposed a curfew in 26 towns, including parts of Ahmedabad, Gujarat's Home Secretary, K. Nityanandan said.

Sixteen of the deaths occurred in a single incident in which Muslim homes were torched in Ahmedabad, police said.

Two more people died when police fired on a mob in an attempt to disperse it.

Many of those traveling on the train Wednesday were activists returning from the northern Indian town of Ayodhya where they had been demanding the government build a Hindu temple on the ruins of a 16th century mosque destroyed by Hindu mobs in 1992.

The act sparked nationwide riots blamed for thousands of deaths.

Muslims, who make up more than 10 percent of India's one billion-strong population, want the mosque rebuilt.

All mass train bookings to Ayodhya have been cancelled as concern grows over the number of Hindus massing at the disputed temple site.


The World Hindu Council leadership has called on Hindus to travel to Ayodhya ahead of a March 15 deadline to begin construction.

Wednesday's train attack left 58 dead, and many severely injured
Wednesday's train attack left 58 dead, and many severely injured  

Over the past few days several thousand followers have taken up the call and traveled to the site.

Nearly 70,000 police are in Gujarat in an attempt to keep a lid on tensions after Wednesday's train attack.

Police are investigating whether the rioters, who torched a restaurant and hotel, were responsible for a fire at a government building in Ahmedabad, Nityanandan said.

India's government has ordered a high-level inquiry into the attack and its aftermath, and Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee canceled a trip to Australia to monitor the situation from New Delhi.

After Wednesday's train attack, Vajpayee appealed to Hindu activists to call off their campaign, saying, "The country's unity and the spiritual brotherhood should be maintained at all costs."

Indian officials fear sectarian violence could spread throughout the country, repeating the Hindu-Muslim fighting that killed nearly a million people around the time colonial India was divided into the independent nations of India and Pakistan.

The Indian government has warned it will take "stern action" against anyone defying court orders, banning any activity on the disputed site in Ayodhya.

The activists want the government to begin building the Hindu temple on the site by March 15 and have said they will press on with construction after that date whether or not the law is on their side.




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