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Wednesday, 8 May, 2002, 11:54 GMT 12:54 UK
Gujarat violence flares
Policeman watches burning car in Ahmedabad
Victims have been stoned, stabbed and burned alive
A fresh bout of communal violence in the western Indian state of Gujarat has claimed 16 lives as soldiers and paramilitary forces fight to quell pitched street battles.

Police officer shows crude bombs, pistols and detonators confiscated from rioters
Mobs are using a range of home-made weapons

Mobs of Hindus and Muslims set upon each other overnight in several areas of Ahmedabad, the state's commercial capital.

The army was called in after police failed to disperse the crowds, which were armed with pistols, iron rods, stones, home-made explosive devices and acid bombs.

The latest clashes brought the number of dead to at least 23 since Sunday, marking the worst bloodshed since hundreds were slaughtered in rioting in early March.

The state's recently-appointed security adviser, KPS Gill, has requested the deployment of 1,000 extra specially-trained riot police from Punjab state to combat the violence.

No let-up

In the latest violence, police said one person was stabbed to death in the Sabarkantha district of Ahmedabad late on Tuesday night.

They said three people were killed when police opened fire in the Maninagar area in an attempt to disperse the crowds.

Commandos
Large additional forces are needed in Gujarat

Another three were stabbed to death in different incidents in Kalupur, Batwa and Maninagar.

Some of the violence was reported to have been in retaliation for the death on Tuesday of a Muslim teacher, who was burnt alive after being dragged off his scooter on his way to work.

More than 900 people, mainly Muslims, have been killed since late February, when Hindu mobs went on the rampage to avenge an attack on a train carrying Hindu activists back from the disputed holy site at Ayodhya.

Right-wing Hindu organisations say the violence represented a spontaneous retaliation for the train attack, which left 58 Hindus dead.

But human rights groups and foreign observers have alleged the wholesale complicity of state authorities in what they say was a systematic campaign targeting the Muslim minority.

Rights groups also say at least 2,000 have died, and many more have been forced to remain in refugee camps in Gujarat, unable to go back to their homes.

Riot force

The government led by Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee has resisted widespread calls for the removal of the state's Chief Minister Narendra Modi.

Gujarat police
The commandos will help Gujarat's police force

Mr Modi, who belongs to Mr Vajpayee's Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party, has been accused of turning a blind eye to the slaughter.

On Monday, the government supported a motion in the upper house of parliament calling for federal intervention in the state, but still refuses to sack Mr Modi.

The BJP has appointed high-profile policeman KPS Gill to advise the chief minister on security.

Mr Gill has requested that 1,000 commandos from the northern state of Punjab be sent to Gujarat to assist the state's police force.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Jill McGivering in Gujarat
"Muslims accuse the police, mainly Hindu, of failing to protect them"
Historian Professor Romila Thaper
"There is an attempt to suggest the only history and civilisation that matter are Hindu"
See also:

07 May 02 | South Asia
Special riot force for Gujarat
25 Apr 02 | South Asia
UK report censures Gujarat rulers
16 Apr 02 | South Asia
Gujarat Muslim women 'rape victims'
15 Mar 02 | South Asia
India's secularism under threat?
28 Feb 02 | South Asia
Analysis: India's religious clashes
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