Toll 26, violence spreads to villages

MuzaffarnagarChildren injured in communal clashes lie at the district hospital at Muzaffarnagar. (AP Photo)

At least 15 more people were killed on the second day of the continuing violence in Muzaffarnagar, which saw direct confrontation between security forces and rioters, taking the toll to 26 with several more injured. In what officials described as "guerrilla warfare", the hostility spread to villages that surround Muzaffarnagar.

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"Violence spread to neighbouring villages on Sunday, that made controlling law and order a little more difficult. While Muzaffarnagar city remained peaceful, clashes were reported in at least eight villages on the outskirts," said District Magistrate Kaushal Raj Sharma. He added that the police had arrested 50 people so far, and this number would increase in the next few days.

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IG (Law and Order) R K Vishwakarma confirmed that 26 people had been killed in the last 48 hours of clashes between Muslims, Jats and security forces.

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On Sunday, the violence began at around 10 am, with reports of arson and rioting in the twin villages of Kutba and Kutbi, about 30 km from Muzaffarnagar. A masjid, several houses and at least four people were killed in clashes that lasted three hours. The situation was brought under control only after Army personnel were deployed to aid existing security forces.

"An unknown number of people entered the villages armed with guns, knives and petrol bombs at around 10 am. Before security forces arrived, four people were killed and a masjid and at least six houses were torched," said a senior police officer. He added that rioters even fired at the Army personnel.

Violence was also reported in Bhavdi, Lakh, Hassanpur and Lisad villages. "The assailants used a crude form of guerrilla tactics and obviously knew the area well. In Bhavdi, where I was posted, they would fire from among the sugarcane fields where they were near invisible. Some would even dart out and throw petrol bombs into houses and at security personnel," said a police officer.

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