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Page last updated at 14:42 GMT, Tuesday, 16 September 2008 15:42 UK

Orissa mob attacks police station

A refugee camp in Kandhamal district
Thousands of Christians have taken shelter in refugee camps

A mob has attacked a police station in Kandhamal district in the eastern state of Orissa, killing a policeman and taking several others hostage.

The attack took place in Gochhapada, some 30km (20 miles) from the district headquarters Phulbani, late on Monday.

The attack appears to be in retaliation for police opening fire on Saturday on Hindu protesters. At least four people died and a dozen were injured.

Orissa has seen anti-Christian violence for several weeks now.

At least 20 people - most of them Christians - were killed after a Hindu religious leader was shot dead.

Meanwhile, fresh violence has also been reported from the coastal city of Mangalore in the southern state of Karnataka, where a Hindu group called for a shutdown on Tuesday.

Police have detained 173 people in the city in connection with three days of clashes triggered by attacks on churches over the weekend.

Taken hostage

In Orissa, a mob of about 500 people attacked the police station in Gochhapada and then set fire to it, senior police official RP Koche told the BBC.

"A policeman was killed in the firing while some other policemen are missing," he said.

Mr Koche said an unconfirmed number of policemen are believed to have been taken hostage by the mob.

Christian church in Phulbani District of Orissa state, 26/08
Orissa has seen rising tension between Christians and Hindus

Reinforcements have been sent to the area but their arrival was delayed as the approach road to the village was blocked with huge logs put up by the protesters.

Although officials are not saying who could be behind the attack, it is being seen as retaliation for police opening fire on Saturday in the village of Kurtamgarh, where a Hindu mob went on the rampage burning houses and prayer halls.

When security forces tried to disperse the crowd, somebody from the crowd shot and injured a policeman, the police said.

Police say they were forced to open fire.

Trouble began last month after Swami Laxmanananda Saraswati was shot along with four others in an attack in Kandhamal district.

Although a senior Maoist rebel leader claimed responsibility for the killing, Hindu groups blamed Christians for the death.

Subsequently, Hindu mobs went on a rampage, attacking and vandalising churches and Christian institutions.

'Disgrace'

Thousands of Christians fled their homes to take shelter in refugee camps.

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh described the violence in Orissa as a "national disgrace".

Meanwhile, in the southern state of Karnataka, four buses were damaged and two people were stabbed in fresh violence on Tuesday.

In two places, police used batons to disperse mobs supporting the strike called by Hindu hard-line group Sri Rama Sena.

At least 16 churches were ransacked and clergymen were attacked in Karnataka by alleged activists of the radical Hindu group Bajrang Dal over the weekend.

Karnataka Chief Minister BS Yeddyurappa has said police will deal sternly with those groups disrupting peace in the region.

Hindu groups have long accused Christian priests of bribing poor tribes and low-caste Hindus to change their faith.

Christians say lower-caste Hindus convert willingly to escape the Hindu caste system.


SEE ALSO
India Christians shelter in camps
01 Sep 08 |  South Asia
Riots grip India's Orissa region
26 Aug 08 |  South Asia
Indian police shoot three dead
28 Dec 07 |  South Asia

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