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Monday, 22 May, 2000, 15:15 GMT 16:15 UK
Christians attacked in south India

By Omer Farooq in Hyderabad

At least 30 people have been injured in a bomb explosion during a Christian religious meeting in the southern Indian state of Andhra Pradesh.

The incident comes amid reports of renewed attacks on Christians in different parts of the country.

The explosion took place at a religious meeting in Machlipatnam town, 330km east of Hyderabad.

Nearly 15,000 Christians had gathered as part of a four-day festival.

Police officials who rushed to the scene of the blast said that despite being a crude device, the explosion was so powerful that it had left a large crater.

The district superintendent of police, CV Anand, said several people were injured in a stampede that followed the blast.

Police sources said that five suspects had been detained for questioning.

Under attack

This is the first time that a religious congregation has come under attack in Andhra Pradesh.

The President of the Baptist Churches Association of India, Vijay Kumar, said the incident was similar to other attacks on Christians in different parts of the country.

Various Christian groups have alleged that the community has been targeted by Hindu hardliners, who have been encouraged by the presence of the Hindu nationalist BJP-led government in Delhi.

Such attacks began when the party took power in its previous term and continue unabated, they say.

In one of the worst attacks, an Australian missionary Graham Staines and his two sons were burnt to death by a mob in Orissa more than a year ago.

An investigation into the case is continuing.

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