Indian army called in following sectarian violence

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The Independent Online

Gangs of Hindu nationalists went through the streets of the western Indian city of Ahmadabad today, ransacking stores and setting them on fire as outnumbered police stood by and watched. At least three Muslim-owned restaurants were set ablaze.

The army was called into the western Indian city of Ahmadabad today after 20 people were killed in sectarian violence during a strike called by Hindu nationalists.

Narendra Modi, chief minister of western Gujarat state, said the army had been brought in to assist the civil administration and that troops may also be deployed in some 26 other towns under curfew.

Gangs of Hindu nationalists went through the streets of the city, ransacking stores and setting them on fire as outnumbered police stood by and watched. At least three Muslim-owned restaurants were set ablaze.

"Mobs are throwing stones at cars and burning down some hotels," said Police Commissioner P.C. Pandey.

The violence erupted in the center of Ahmadabad, the biggest city in Gujarat state, a day after a Muslim mob, angered by Hindu nationalists who did not pay vendors for their food, had burned a train car, killing 58 people in the town of Godhra, 95 miles to the north. Most of those killed were Hindu.

One Muslim teenager was killed in police firing at the Godhra mob, and at least seven Muslims were stabbed to death in three other towns overnight, as police ordered curfews and the state said it was increasing security to prevent sectarian violence from spreading.

On Thursday, hundreds of people chanting "Hail, Rama," in honor of one of Hindu's chief deities, threatened shopkeepers who had not closed in compliance with a strike call to protest the train attack.

The mobs blocked roads with tires, pulled mattresses, quilts and other goods from stores and set bonfires in the streets, then burned the shops. At least one truck was burned.

People tore into a restaurant and grabbed food, plates, pots and pans and threw them into the air outside. Members of the crowd ordered journalists to leave and stop taking pictures.

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