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Last Updated: Friday, 8 August, 2003, 04:31 GMT 05:31 UK
Ayodhya excavations completed
Babri mosque before demolition
The mosque at Ayodhya was demolished by a Hindu mob in 1992
Archaeologists have completed excavating a religious site in the northern Indian town of Ayodhya, the subject of a long-running dispute between Hindus and Muslims.

The state-run Archaeological Survey of India was ordered to carry out the work to help determine whether the ruined Babri mosque was built on top of an ancient Hindu temple.

Hindus say the site was the birthplace of the god Rama, and that a temple built in his honour was destroyed in the 16th Century and replaced with the mosque.

Muslims however dispute this, and want to rebuild the mosque, which was demolished by crowds of angry Hindus in 1992.

Archaeologists unearthed more than 1,350 pieces of glazed tiles and terracotta, bangles, and parts of mud figures from the site during 160 days of excavations, the Associated Press news agency reported.

They also found some platforms, ancient floorings and artefacts.

Deadly dispute

The Ayodhya temple campaign was spearheaded by right-wing Hindu groups closely affiliated to the governing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and was partly responsible for the sudden rise in the party's fortunes in the 1990s.

But the dispute led to thousands of people, mainly Muslims, being killed in the resulting religious violence that swept across India in 1992 after the mosque on the site was demolished.

And last year violence flared again, when in February more than 50 people were killed when a train carrying Hindu activists returning to the city of Gujarat from Ayodhya was set alight by a Muslim mob.

At least 900 Muslims died in the violence that erupted following this attack.

A month later hardline Hindus held a ceremony at the Ayodhya site as part of their campaign for the construction of a temple.

The mounting of a massive security operation largely forestalled a feared outbreak of religious violence.

The final report on the excavation will be used in a trial over the rival claims on the land.

Earlier this month the high court in the city of Lucknow gave archaeologists working at the site five more weeks to carry out their investigations and another two weeks to complete their report.

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