Page last updated at 09:13 GMT, Thursday, 25 September 2008 10:13 UK

Orissa tense after church attack

Smoke rises from the rubble of a Christian orphanage destroyed in Orissa
Orissa has seen weeks of violence

Hindu mobs have vandalised a church and dozens of houses in the eastern Indian state of Orissa, police say.

The overnight attacks took place in the Tikabali and Daringbadi areas of Kandhamal district, police said.

The area has witnessed a fresh bout of violence since Tuesday when police shot dead a protester in the town of Raikia.

Orissa has seen anti-Christian violence for several weeks. At least 20 people, mostly Christians, were killed after a Hindu religious leader was shot dead.

Hindus groups have long accused Christian priests of bribing poor tribes and low-caste Hindus to convert to Christianity.

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

Blocked roads

About 20 houses were attacked in the Shankarakhol area and at least three churches were burnt in Simanbadi on Wednesday, senior police officer in Kandhamal, Praveen Kumar, told the BBC.

Police said mobs burnt or damaged at least 40 houses in overnight attacks.

Most of the houses belonged to Christians, they said.

Christians protest in front of the St James Church in Bangalore (September 2008)
Christians have also faced attacks in Karnataka

Police said the rioters had blocked roads leading to the trouble spots, making movement of security personnel difficult.

Given the pattern of the violence in the district so far, observers say this suggests that more attacks are being planned by the rioters.

Some roads which were cleared on Wednesday were blocked again overnight, police said.

Mr Kumar said efforts were on to clear the roads.

According to reports, protesting mobs were also chasing away journalists trying to enter the area.

Srinath Jena, the Kandhamal correspondent of the leading Oriya daily Sambad, said he and some other journalists were threatened and chased away by armed rioters when they tried to visit Raikia on Thursday morning.

The man police shot dead in Raikia on Tuesday was demonstrating against the arrests of two people for anti-Christian violence.

Christians accused

Violence broke out last month after Swami Laxmanananda Saraswati was shot along with four others in an attack in the Kandhamal district.

A senior Maoist leader claimed responsibility for the killing, but Hindu groups accused Christians.

Hindu mobs burnt down monasteries, churches and an orphanage.

There has also been anti-Christian violence in the southern state of Karnataka.

More than 20 churches and prayer halls have been vandalised by Hindu hard-line groups in the state.

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