Religious riots hit Indian state

Catholic schools shut in protest over attacks by Hindus in Orissa state.

    Thousands of people have been displaced
    in the week-long clashes [AFP]

    "Riots in the other districts have been completely controlled," he said.

    Krishan Kumar, the chief administrator of Kandhamal, said: "Hindu and Christian peace committees have been meeting and the leaders have appealed for calm."

    At least 6,000 people have taken shelter in government camps and that number is expected to swell to 10,000, Kumar said.

    Houses burnt

    Hundreds of houses were burnt to the ground and police were ordered to shoot rioters on sight after the violence erupted following the killing of Swami Laxmanananda Saraswati, a leader of a Hindu group, last week.

    About 5,000 people are said to be hiding in forests around the district of Khandhamal, fearing violence after Hindu mobs burnt more than a dozen churches and attacked Christians and other Hindus.

    On Thursday, India's Prime Minister Manmohan Singh asked the Orissa chief minister "to take immediate steps to stop violence".

    The Italian government has said it will summon India's ambassador to stress the need for "decisive preventative and repressive action" to crack down on what it called "unacceptable" religious violence.

    The Italian decision came after Pope Benedict XVI "firmly condemned" the violence.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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