LUCKNOW, India, March 18 (AP) -- Hindu mobs joined bloody battles between heavily armed Muslims and riot police in a northern Indian industrial city, leaving six dead Sunday in spreading religious riots.

Kanpur, a leading industrial center, was paralyzed as looting and arson continued over the alleged burning of a copy of the Quran, the Islamic holy book, by Hindu fundamentalists in India's capital, New Delhi.

Street battles raged between security forces and Muslim mobs, mainly members of the Student Islamic Movement of India, which started attacks against police Friday. Hindus joined in rioting after the death of Hindu officials and the looting and arson of their shops and offices, police said.

Hundreds of riot police with shields and bulletproof vests patrolled the streets in the city 300 miles east of New Delhi. At least 36 people had been injured, 160 arrested, and about 200 shops had reportedly been gutted.

Curfew was imposed in many parts of the city, and police refused to go into some areas for fear of being shot at from multistory buildings in the congested neighborhoods.

The rioting began after two members of the Hindu extremist group Bajrang Dal allegedly burnt a copy of the Quran during a demonstration in New Delhi on March 5 against the destruction of ancient Buddha statues in Afghanistan by the Taliban.

The two Hindu extremists were arrested and were being questioned, police said.

Violence exploded in Kanpur on Friday night, when a district official was killed by a burst of machine-gun fire from a mosque in the city, said Naresh Dayal, the state's home secretary. The following night, Muslim activists armed with AK-47 assault rifles attacked two police stations, killing two people.

Meanwhile in unrelated violence, nine Muslim rioters and two policemen were killed in a gun battle that raged for hours in neighboring Bihar state, said Chief Secretary Mukund Prasad, the state's top bureaucrat. The gun battle started when armed supporters of a federal lawmaker who is accused of murder and extortion clashed on Friday with police.

The lawmaker, Shahabuddin, who uses one name, is accused in 29 cases of murder, extortion and kidnapping. Shahabuddin has gone missing, and police have launched a manhunt for him.

Police have now filed additional charges of armed rioting against him after the recent violence of his supporters.

more from beliefnet and our partners
Close Ad