Unrest in India′s Assam claims 24 lives | News | DW | 24.07.2012
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Unrest in India's Assam claims 24 lives

Ethnic clashes in India's Assam state have now claimed 24 lives. Government troops have been given orders to shoot suspected rioters on sight.

As fighting flares between Bodo tribal groups and Muslim settlers in the west of the state of Assam, police fired on rioters on Tuesday, killing two people and bringing the death toll in the ethnic conflict to 24, officials said.

Rioting between Bodos and Muslims has raged for days in the northeastern state, erupting late on Friday in the Kokrajhar district, 220 kilometers (137 miles) west of the state capital, Guwahati.

Clashes spread to the neighboring Chirang and Dhubri districts over the weekend, with thousands left homeless as villages were set on fire. Some 500 villages are said to have been destroyed.

A police official said the government has opened about 50 camps to accommodate more than 50,000 villagers.

The news channel NDTV reported that most of the dead were killed with axes or machetes.

Displaced tribal people take shelter in a relief camp near Kokorajhar

Villagers have taken shelter in special relief camps

Shoot-on-sight order

NDTV said government soldiers brought in to try to quell the unrest had been given instructions to shoot on sight, meaning that mobs breaking an official curfew could be shot without warning.

Rioters have set ablaze shops and houses and attacked rival gangs.

The Press Trust of India news agency said the fighting started when two Muslim student leaders were shot and seriously injured in Kokrajhar. Muslims retaliated with attacks on Bodo groups.

The clashes are the latest in a long-simmering conflict, mostly to do with land rights, between indigenous Assam people and Muslim immigrants, many of them from neighboring Bangladesh.

India's northeast is home to more than 200 ethnic and tribal groups and tensions in the region are rife. Both Hindu and Christian tribes have expressed strong anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim sentiment directed at Bangladeshi settlers.

tj/rc (Reuters, AFP)