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GUWAHATI, India: Nine more people were killed overnight in ethnic violence in northeast India, officials said Wednesday, as military reinforcements were called in to quell several days of clashes.
More than 170,000 villagers have fled their homes in Assam state to seek shelter in relief camps, government buildings and schools to escape the unrest, in which 35 people have been killed since Friday and dozens of houses burnt down.
The clashes erupted between indigenous Bodo tribes and Muslim settlers who have fought for years over long-standing territorial disputes in the remote region.
“The situation is tense and we are getting additional paramilitary troopers,” Assam police chief J.N. Choudhury told reporters, adding that the bodies of nine people killed overnight had been found on Wednesday morning.
News channels broadcast pictures of homes that had been set ablaze by rioters, and of women and children gathered in the government-run camps that are being protected by soldiers.
Hagrama Mohilary, chief of the Bodoland Territorial Council, a local government body, told AFP by telephone that “35 people have been killed and an estimated 170,000 are sheltered in relief camps”.
Mohilary said that the latest victims had been killed with crude weapons such as heavy sticks, and their bodies left at separate sites in rice fields and along roadsides.
Police issued shoot-on-sight orders late on Monday after rioters burnt shops and houses and attacked rival gangs. The orders mean that mobs breaking the curfew could be shot without warning.
“We have lost everything in the violence. Our houses have all been razed to ground with mobs setting ablaze our properties,” Rabiul Islam, a villager in Kokrajhar district, told local television at one camp.
“We don’t know how long we have to stay in the relief camp. We left everything behind and simply ran for our lives,” said Ronila Brahma, a mother of two children.
The Press Trust of India news agency has reported that the fighting started when two Muslim student leaders were shot and seriously injured in Kokrajhar, leading to revenge strikes on Bodo groups.
Northeast India, which is linked to the rest of the country by a narrow land bridge, has seen decades of friction among ethnic and separatist groups, though some of the biggest rebel movements have recently started peace talks with the government. -- AFP