Five more bodies have been recovered from a river near an area where more than 30 Muslims were killed last week in the worst ethnic violence in India’s remote northeast in two years, official have said.
Local magistrate Vinod Sachan said that the bodies were found on Wednesday in the Barpeta district of Assam state, taking the total number killed to 43.
Two other bodies were found on Tuesday, according to the Associated Press news agency.
Barpeta is next to Baksa district, where police said rebels from the Bodo tribe, which has long accused Muslims of entering India illegally from neighbouring Bangladesh, went on a rampage, setting Muslim homes ablaze and firing indiscriminately at civilians.
Local media have reported that Bodos attacked the Muslims as punishment for failing to vote for their candidate last month in the country’s mammoth, staggered election that is drawing to a close.
The group has denied it was behind the violence, according to the AFP news agency.
“So far the death toll is put at 43. The killings were indeed barbaric with even five-month-old baby not spared,” Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi told reporters from the worst-hit Narayanguri village.
Gogoi said about 15 children, aged eight months to 14, left orphaned by the bloodshed were being sent to a charity-run home in Guwahati.
Villagers broke down in tears as they recalled their terrifying ordeals, while others pleaded with officials travelling with the chief minister to help shift them to hospital for treatment.
“I saw my mother and father dying in front of me. I managed to save myself hiding under the bed as masked gunmen put bullets in my parents,” 14-year-old Habiba Nessa told AFP.
Indian soldiers have launched a massive hunt for the Bodo rebels blamed for the violence which has forced several thousand people to flee their homes in fear, officials have said.