AHMADABAD, India (AP) -- Vengeful Hindus torched Muslim homes, killing scores, and rioting spread through the western state of Gujarat on Saturday as the death toll in India's worst religious strife in a decade reached 415, officials said.
The violence continued unchecked for a fourth day despite army troops being deployed with orders to shoot rioters on sight. A curfew was imposed in 37 towns. In a national television broadcast, Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee appealed for peace and restraint, saying the violence was a "blot" on the nation's reputation.
Bodies blackened by fire lay in the streets along with burned-out furnishings and vehicles, shredded clothes and other personal belongings in Ahmadabad, the city worst hit by violence. Muslims streamed into hospitals for treatment of stab wounds and burns, but also for refuge.
Though the bloodshed was spreading, it seemed confined to Gujarat state, where police reported fresh rioting and arson in Surat, Bhavnagar, Vadodra and Ahmadabad. Roaming groups set fire to shops in at least three Ahmadabad neighborhoods Saturday and prevented fire trucks from approaching, fire officials said.
In the town of Vadodra, at least seven Muslims working at a bakery were burned alive Saturday, police said, speaking on condition of anonymity. On Friday, at least 122 Muslims, trapped inside their homes, were burned to death by Hindus in three separate attacks in Ahmadabad and two villages, police said.
The bloodshed began Wednesday when Muslims torched a train carrying Hindus returning from the northern town of Ayodhya, where a temple is planned on the site of a 16th-century mosque that was razed by Hindus in 1992. The planned construction of the temple has long been a cause of Hindu-Muslim tension.
Fifty-eight people died in the train fire in the town of Godhra, south of Ahmadabad, sparking a retaliatory rampage by right-wing Hindus. Muslims have accused police and soldiers of standing by and doing nothing as residents -- including women and children -- have been slaughtered, often with swords and sticks.
Brainerd Dispatch ©2013. All Rights Reserved.