One dead, 15 wounded in clash at Sikh temple in Vienna | Europe| News and current affairs from around the continent | DW | 24.05.2009
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One dead, 15 wounded in clash at Sikh temple in Vienna

One person has died and at least 15 people have been injured, six of them seriously, in a violent outbreak at a Sikh temple in the Austrian capital.

Sikhs pray

Discipline and meditation were abandoned at the Vienna temple

The temple, located in a busy area of Vienna near the main west railway station, was filled with around 300 worshippers at the time of the attack.

Eyewitnesses said a man carrying a firearm fired at the guru of the temple but failed to hit him. Five other men reportedly drew knives and joined in the attack. There is speculation the fight was over the oration the guru had just delivered.

Police spokesman Michael Takacs said it was not so much a shoot-out as a fight among believers.

"In this incident there was a celebration going on among followers of the Sikhs -- they were holding a ceremony. Suddenly six people did not agree with the procedures and the preacher and they pulled out weapons -- one had a gun and five others knives."

Onlookers overpowered the six attackers -- sustaining injuries in the process. Bloodstained members of the Sikh community were seen standing shocked on the street outside the temple afterwards. One commented that the temple resembled a battlefield.

"All six attackers were overcome by the followers in the temple and badly injured. We can't yet say by whom. Visitors to the temple were also injured," Takacs said.

Emergency services transported the victims to a nearby hospital. The guru's attackers were among the worst injured, reports said. Sant Rama Nand, one of the Indian preachers, died in the hospital after being operated on for his wounds according to a police official.

One worshipper told reporters that an ongoing feud existed between two of the more prominent Sikh temples in Vienna and that a visit by Shri Guru Ravidas Sabha had sparked the confrontation. He said police had been warned of a potential attack.

Around 3,000 Sikhs reside in Austria, with this being the first incident of its type involving the Sikh community. Sikhs have complained of a lack of religious freedom, in particular, discrimination by employers baring them from wearing a turban, which is a central part of their religion.

The Sikh community has not released an official statement on the incident, but the violence has seen a quick reaction from the far-right, anti-immigration Freedom Party.

In a statement it said the outbreak showed the city's multi-cultural policies were failing and attacked the Social Democrat administration of Mayor Micheal Haeupl.

Author: Kerry Skyring,av
Editor: Darren Mara

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