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Last Updated: Tuesday, 15 June, 2004, 09:46 GMT 10:46 UK
'Four militants' killed in India
Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi
Mr Modi has been criticised over his handling of the 2002 riots
Indian police say they have killed four suspected militants who were planning to kill the Chief Minister of Gujarat state, Narendra Modi.

The police accused the four, who were shot dead on Tuesday, of being part of a Pakistan-based "suicide squad".

The militants were driving near the airport of Gujarat's main city, Ahmedabad, when they were intercepted, a police official said.

Gujarat, in western India, was wracked by religious violence in 2002.

The riots left at least 1,000 dead - most of them Muslims. They began when a mob - believed to be mostly Muslim - set fire to a train compartment carrying Hindu activists.

Mr Modi is a member of the Hindu Nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and was accused of not doing enough to prevent the riots.

Police tip off

The four suspected militants killed on Tuesday included one woman, and two of the dead were from Pakistan, police said.

"The police had intelligence input that they [the alleged militants] were in town to kill the chief minister. All four were killed in an encounter on Tuesday morning," a police official told Reuters news agency.

Soldiers in Gujarat
Tight security remains in Gujarat following the communal riots
The police said they had recovered two pistols and a rifle from the dead.

The former BJP Prime Minister, Atal Behari Vajpayee, said over the weekend that Mr Modi should be removed from his position as chief minister.

Mr Vajpayee is reported to have blamed the riots for his party's poor performance in the recently held general elections, in which the BJP lost seats in Gujarat.

But the BJP's President, Venkaiah Naidu, said there were no proposals for any change of leadership in Gujarat.

Correspondents say the new Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh, has not abandoned the possibility of imposing federal rule in Gujarat if Mr Modi fails to speed up the prosecutions of those who took part in the rioting.

The reported plot to kill Mr Modi follows the killing last year of Haren Pandya, a former Gujarat minister, in an attack that was blamed on the criminal underworld.

India often says that Pakistan-based militant groups are responsible for attacks in India.

Pakistan denies the allegations and in turn, accuses India of involvement in violence in Pakistan.


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