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Violence Spreads through Gujarat, India

Thousands of soldiers have been deployed across India's northwestern state of Gujarat in a bid to quell unrest between Hindus and minority Moslems. Germany joins international community in condemning the violence.

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Relgious tensions flare up between Indian Hindus and Muslims

Religious tensions and riots continued to spread throughout India on Friday and Saturday. In the southern city of Hyderabad, Indian Muslims attacked a police station shortly after Friday prayers. They pelted the building with stones and set fire to several vehicles. Violence also spread to the commercial capital Mumbai, where anti-Muslim protestors stoned buses and blocked rail tracks.

So far, the most serious violence has been confined to the northwestern state of Gujarat. In the state capital, Ahmedabad, more than 50 Muslims died in a fire deliberately set in a shanty town on the city’s outskirts.

The government called in the army’s rapid reaction forces to deal with the mobs of angry Hindus in Gujarat. State premier Narenda Modi said 1,100 people had been detained so far. In Bombay 400 violent protestors were also arrested.

Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee and opposition leaders have issued a joint statement calling for peace between all religious communities. But so far the violence has not subsided, and the police admit they are unable to control the spreading riots.

The unrest began on Wednesday when an angry Muslim mob set fire to a train, killing 58 Hindus. Since then the violence has claimed at least 276 lives.

Germany’s response

Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer has condemned the ethnic violence in India. In a statement issued on Friday, Fischer said, "the horrible images of hundreds of burnt bodies, wounded people and burning houses fill us with shock and alarm."

The foreign minister appealed to the leaders of both the Muslim and Hindu groups to "end the confrontation immediately." At the same time he praised the Indian government for its efforts to achieve a peaceful and just solution to the conflict.

The German foreign ministry has also issued an urgent warning to travelers to stay away from Gujarat until the violence has subsided. The ministry has not, however, cautioned against travel to India in general.

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